Professor Traci Lamar, North Carolina State University (NCSU) College of Textiles, is a rebel without a gown—at least until the ugly, flimsy, shapeless hospital gowns of today experience a makeover. “Nobody is happy with it,” says Blanton Godfrey, dean of the NCSU College of Textiles. “It is amazing—we have created a product nobody likes.” Lamar and her student team are going where few designers have gone before: inside the hospital gown, as part of a grant-funded initiative by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Princeton, N.J., called “Down with the Gown.”
There have been other efforts to design new gowns, but in most American hospitals, the old gown design still dominates.
The Foundation has provided NCSU researchers with $250,000 over two-and-a-half years to update the traditional hospital gown and market the design. Variations of the current style go back to the 1920s, cost two or three dollars each, wash multiple times and work well in emergencies. “Given all the challenges facing hospitals and health care, aren’t there more pressing problems?” says Michael Georgulis, vice president at Premier Inc., a nonprofit hospital alliance. Lamar and team are undeterred. Patient gowns are a $76 million market, according to Premier Inc., and the Down with the Gown team believes there is room for options that look good and cover both the patient’s bottom and the bottom line.
For more information about the Down with the Gown initiative, visit the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation Web page at www.rwjf.org.