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More Than Just a Hospital Gown — St. Cloud Nurse Ensures Dignity and Respect for Patients of the Islamic Faith

Published in Inside CentraCare, For the Health of It Author: CentraCare

For eight years, Carrie Zeigler-Erickson, RN, has been working at CentraCare – St. Cloud Hospital in the Emergency Trauma Center (ETC). On this unit, there are often situations where clothing items worn by patients are soiled or cut away from the body. In these cases, the hospital provides new clothing for patients upon discharge.

It’s standard practice — but Carrie noticed it wasn’t equitable for all those we serve.

“I had a patient of Somali-descent who was treated in the ETC,” Carrie said. “Upon her discharge home, CentraCare didn’t have any culturally appropriate clothing for the patient to protect her privacy at time of discharge. The clothing she wore to the hospital had been soiled.”

That same day, Carrie had another Somali patient who had family members bringing her clothing each day to wear because there were no hospital gowns that aligned with her Islamic faith.

“I did not feel that patients of a different culture should have to bring clothing from home to change into daily in the hospital because of their different beliefs involving modesty,” Carrie said.

That’s when Carrie decided to take action. With St. Cloud being home to Minnesota’s second largest Somali population — Carrie wanted to make sure we had clothing and hospital gowns available for patients that aligned with Islamic beliefs. Carrie started collaborating with stakeholders at the hospital, shared governance committee members, and patients to help order appropriate clothing and gowns for these patients.

In April 2021, the Dignity Closet, which makes clothing available to patients upon discharge, started offering clothing that aligned with the faith of our Islamic patients. And in January 2022, gowns were specially ordered with an attached hijab, full length to the floor to provide privacy for Muslim women requiring hospital services. These gowns also have sleeves with radiographic compatible snaps allowing access to patient arms for IV placement and blood draws and a snap down chest that allows for easy access to a patient’s chest for electrocardiograms (ECGs).

“Seeing this all take place was very fulfilling — knowing that we could provide a product that contributes to cultural awareness and equity to our patients,” Carrie said. “One patient thanked me, saying having these gowns available helped her feel respected.”

These gowns are available at all CentraCare hospitals thanks to a collaboration by team members from around the organization including the ETC, Laundry Services, Education department, Patient Care and CentraCare Foundation.

This story is just one of many submitted to the American Nursing Credentialing Center as part of St. Cloud Hospital’s documentation for its Magnet re-designation.