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The Catalyst

Medical students establish Everybody's Closet

By Mikie Hayes
Public Relations

Co–presidents Evie Smith and Dave McCabe, fourth–and third–year College of Medicine students, respectively, serve with the Paul B. Underwood Jr. Chapter of the Gold Humanism Honor Society. They are spearheading the Everybody’s Closet project.  photo by Mikie Hayes, Public Relations

Not every patient arrives at the hospital adequately dressed or even in clothes they will be able to leave in for that matter. Emergencies create situations that people aren’t able to anticipate and under typical circumstances, clothes are one of the last things on a patient’s mind.

What happens when a trauma patient arrives by ambulance in clothes that are torn, covered in blood or destroyed from having been cut off?  Or a homeless man is admitted to the hospital in clothes so threadbare or soiled he couldn’t possibly leave in them? Or an indigent woman walks in to the Emergency Department wearing clothing that in no way protects her from the outside elements? Such are the realities health care providers see every day.

When a patient has no appropriate clothes to leave in at the end of a hospital stay, it is common for them to be sent home wearing a set of disposable "paper scrubs" that the hospital provides.

This situation concerned a group of College of Medicine students who couldn’t bear sending people out of the hospital, possibly even back onto the streets, wearing nothing more than thin paper scrubs. While this has been the accepted practice across the country, the students wondered if there were a better solution.

When the members of the Paul B. Underwood Jr. Chapter of the Gold Humanism Honor Society met to discuss this challenge, they came up with the idea to create Everybody’s Closet, a storehouse designed to house certain wardrobe items and provide patients with clean, gently-used clothing to wear when they leave.

Evie Smith, a fourth–year medicine student and co–president of the GHHS at MUSC, respectively, has seen many cases that have left an indelible impression on her heart, fueling her desire to see Everybody’s Closet become a reality. Perhaps the most disturbing case was a patient who had been discharged from the hospital and readmitted three weeks later wearing the same paper scrubs she had left in — likely having worn them during the duration, she said.

“Patients have been through such frightening ordeals and situations that can be demeaning. They should not have to leave in paper scrubs or bloody clothes. They deserve to leave in comfortable and appropriate clothing. It’s something so simple that we can do for people,” Smith said.

The GHHS received permission to move forward with this project and they have fashioned a designated area in the triage area of the Emergency Department where MUSC staff can pick out size and weather appropriate attire for a patient who has no clothing to wear home. By providing this resource, they feel a patient has been treated most respectfully.

To properly stock the closet, GHHS students announced an on–going clothing drive and are asking for donations of all types of gently used, comfortable clothing, with a particular need for T-shirts, sweat      pants and warm outerwear of all types. Clothes are needed for men and women and larger sizes are extremely helpful. In addition they desperately need new undergarments and socks for men and woman, again larger sizes are most helpful. No children’s items are needed at this time.

Currently, the area where the clothes are stored is little more than four cabinets labeled with sizes for men and women. They are trying to secure a grant to enable them to build shelves and buy hangers, so it’s more user–friendly, and ultimately, a larger space with which to work.

When fully stocked and operational, Everybody’s Closet will provide a valuable resource for patients at MUSC. While it will initially help patients in the Emergency Department, the GHHS students plan for it to quickly grow to serve many areas of MUSC and to be a permanent source of help.

Their labor of love will officially begin on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, coinciding with the Gold Society’s National Solidarity Day for Compassionate Patient Care 2014.

Solidarity Day recognizes the importance of compassion between health care professionals and their patients and encourages health care professionals to put more thought and reflection into what they observe and what they can do to incorporate humanism into the medicine they practice. It also serves as a positive reminder of how small acts of kindness can make a very big difference in a patient’s care.

Last year, the GHHS medical students delivered "Care Baskets" filled with food to families in hospital waiting areas. Every year their project’s goal is to thoughtfully touch the lives of patients and their families.

GHHS exists to demonstrate excellence in clinical care, leadership, compassion and dedication to service and was organized to elevate the values of humanism and professionalism within the field of medicine.

Smith said, “Compassion in medicine is integral to being a good doctor. The humanistic values of integrity, honestly, respect, excellence and empathy are the ideals I’m basing my career on. There are many different ways to be a good doctor, but compassion is a very important part. The most important.”

To donate clothes, please drop them in the boxes located inside the doors of the Colbert Education Center and Library, the entrance of the main hospital off the Horseshoe, the Basic Science Building lobby, the Clinical Science Building lobby or the Children’s Hospital lobby.

February 2, 2014

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