Baring all : the impact of the hospital gown on patient wellbeing

Morton, Liza and Cogan, Nicola and Kornfalt, Susanna and Porter, Zoe and Emmanouil, Georgiadis (2020) Baring all : the impact of the hospital gown on patient wellbeing. British Journal of Health Psychology. ISSN 1359-107X (In Press)

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    Objectives: The importance of personalised and dignified care is increasingly being recognised in healthcare policy and practice. Despite the known impact of clothing on social identity and self-expression the impact of hospital clothing on patient wellbeing has been widely overlooked. Patients are often required to wear hospital clothing, commonly a backless gown, during medical procedures and surgeries. The impact of wearing patient clothing on wellbeing, during this time of vulnerability, was explored. Design: A multi-method approach consisting of two studies. Methods: Two studies were carried out to consider the impact of the hospital gown on wellbeing among adults with and without chronic health conditions. The first study consisted of conducting in-depth, semi-structured interviews (n = 10) with adults living with a lifelong chronic health condition (Congenital Heart Disease). The second study was a cross-sectional, online survey exploring adults' views (n = 928) and experiences of wearing the hospital gown. Results: Qualitative analysis identified the following master themes: (1) symbolic embodiment of the ‘sick’ role, (2) relinquishing control to medical professionals, and (3) emotional and physical vulnerability. Quantitative analysis of the online survey data indicated that adults often reported wearing the hospital gown despite lack of medical necessity. Its design was considered to be not fit for purpose and lacking in dignity. Conclusions: The implications of these findings for health policy and practice are discussed, emphasising the importance of challenging cultural norms in healthcare since de-humanising aspects of care, as symbolically represented by the hospital gown, may adversely impact on patient wellbeing.