When a patient arrived at North Colorado Medical Center with a baby boy who had only one diaper, hospital staff stepped in to care for the child.
Nurses provided food and security for the little boy while his relative received treatment for an emergency condition. Thanks to a new program, they were also able to dress the child.
To ensure safety on discharge and comfort in hospital, Banner Health teams in Greeley, Loveland and Fort Collins have stocked their emergency rooms with clothing for those in need. Nurses can walk into a closet and provide clean pajamas for a child, winter clothes for a homeless person, or new clothes for an accident victim.
“We recently had a patient who suffered a traumatic leg injury,” said Julie Rojas, registered nurse at NCMC in Greeley. “We had to cut the pants to stabilize the leg and provide care. When he left, we were able to put him in shorts which allowed for comfort and privacy.
Registered nurse Polly McLachlan opened a clothes closet at the Fort Collins Medical Center after a patient was discharged with no clothing other than a hospital gown.
McLachlan visits the closet at least once a week to select clothes for patients, but North Colorado Medical Center nurses enter the closet to grab items for patients at least once per shift.
The clothes are made available to everyone, according to Rojas, including staff members. Recently an employee with only a jacket had to change a tire in the cold. He borrowed a coat and returned it the next day for someone else to use.
Other times the closet is useful, such as when a trauma patient’s clothing is being cut and when the police need to take clothing away for an investigation.
The closet is especially beneficial for occasional long-term ER patients who cannot return home due to medical conditions and longer-than-usual placement. The closet can provide clothes for daily dressing, with clothes being washed for repeated use.
“Wearing a hospital gown every day is not a good option in some cases,” Rojas said.
Prepare for winter
As Greeley Hospital prepares for the winter season, Rojas and her fellow nurses recently stocked the closet with jackets, winter hats and boots.
When homeless patients arrive wet and cold, nurses can wrap them in dry, warm clothes to face another day outside, Rojas said. Staff also provide for other needs, including medical care, warmth and food.
“We know we’re sending someone out homeless,” Rojas said. “If we can keep them safe for a bit longer, that’s a great peace of mind.”
Although Banner Health does not accept items donated from the community, the hospital coordinates collections from employees willing to help.
Community members interested in helping can donate clothing to local resale or thrift stores or they can donate financial resources to the Weld Legacy Trust or the McKee Wellness Foundation.
“It’s great to be able to provide the little comforts that people care about so much,” Rojas said. “Not having to worry about something as simple as, ‘What am I going to wear to go home?’ allows better focus on how to deal with the medical emergency upon discharge and gives the patient some dignity without wearing a hospital gown or paper pants.