September 24, 2014

Hate wearing hospital gowns? Many patients could wear their own clothes

Daily Briefing

    Nearly 50% of patients could wear their own pants while in the hospital, but a majority of patients do not, according to a new research letter in JAMA Internal Medicine.

    Not wearing garments under hospital gowns has some advantages in some circumstances, like making physical examinations easier for physicians and cleaning easier for caregivers treating patients with incontinence issues. But some have argued that taking away a patient's clothes and forcing them to wear hospital gowns can cause some patients emotional trauma.

    For the study, researchers looked at 127 patients entering six clinical teaching units at five hospitals in Canada. The researchers noted whether or not patients entering the units were wearing garments below the waist with their gowns and asked the patients' physicians if they were allowed to wear garments under their gowns if they desired.

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    Of the patients studied, 57 would be eligible to wear their own garments, but only 14 did so. At one center, researchers asked 17 patients who were eligible to wear pants but were not doing so if they would like to and 13 did so.

    Patients who were not eligible to wear garments included individuals with wounds or catheters or those who were immobile, incontinent, very sick, or did not understand.

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    Todd Lee—a physician at McGill University Health Center in Montreal and one of the researchers involved in the study—says, "I think all patients should ... have the option to wear their own clothing if it is clinically reasonable to do so." But he notes that "[c]lothing worn needs to be hygienic, able to be laundered, and shouldn't preclude the examination of patients or the performing of medically necessary acts" (Doyle, Reuters, 9/22).

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