IDE alumnus designs new hospital gown for and with children and healthcare professionals

15 March 2017 by Communication

How do you create a new design for hospital gowns that children as well as healthcare professionals are happy with? Many children do not like the hospital gowns used in the Wilhelmina Children's Hospital. They think they are ugly, uncomfortable and they don't offer enough privacy.

The healthcare professionals are mainly concerned with the practical requirements: easy to open and close, easy to remove and nothing that will encourage bed sores. This is also an aspect where there is much room for improvement.

IDE alumnus Thomas Latcham, who recently graduated cum laude for his master’s programme Design for Interaction (DfI), designed a solution through an extensive co-design process. He worked alternately with children and the healthcare team (including nurses, surgeons and anaesthetists). He recognised the emotional needs of the patient, to feel they are in control, an individual, secure and self-confident. As one child put it: “I feel naked, you can see my bare bottom.”

This resulted in two types of gown – a short jacket style with trousers, and a longer robe, both with a wide wraparound front and a side fastener to which a bag can be attached. During their intake in the hospital, children choose from three types of bag and individualise this further. For example by drawing on it or adding the names of their family and friends, and they can fill it with personal items. The child attaches the bag to the fastener of the jacket. During the operation the bag with contents can be hung on the patient's bed. In this way the child is given more control of the operation procedure. He has chosen his own jacket and made his own personalised bag; this increases the feeling of security.

Thomas took the children's ideas and discussed and tested them with the healthcare team to improve the functional aspects. Thanks to three rounds of feedback, the jacket is now easier to use. The rows of snap fasteners on the shoulders and sides of the jacket are now colour coded so that it is easier to see how the jacket closes. The wrapover front is closed with a single snap fastener.

The extensive co-design process means the design enjoys the support of both patients and hospital staff. The final design was tested during an actual operation. The hospital is now discussing production with its house supplier and other hospitals have expressed interest in the design.

This project is a result of the research ‘Co-design with kids’.

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