Hospital gown getting redesign

It's medicine's equivalent of the fig leaf, except it doesn't always stay in place. It's the hospital gown, the flimsy, blousy garment with a loosely tied open back that seems perpetually at risk of exposing what it's supposed to conceal.

Jeannie Norris knows. The employee of the N.C. State University Alumni Association recently spent time at Raleigh's Rex Hospital for a burst appendix.

"When you are in the hospital and had surgery, you really feel bad," said Norris, 44. "You don't pay a lot of attention to what's hooked and what's not. You find out after the fact that you've been walking around flashing people."

N.C. State is taking up the challenge of improving a gown design that has gone unchanged even as everything else in medicine has advanced rapidly.

Traci Lamar, a textile design professor at N.C. State, is leading a team that is working to create a more comfortable, less revealing hospital garment.

"They are really not only undignified and immodest, but it is influencing some behavior and some attitudes," Lamar said. "One patient literally used the word 'mortified': 'I was mortified at the thought of getting out of the bed.'"

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