For the media

Bags that are ‘sew’ good for patients

By The Health News Team | December 17, 2020
Handmade bag using recycled surgical wraps on a wheelchair

While most used medical supplies are destined for the landfill, others can be a valuable resource with the possibility to serve a new purpose. Finding ways to reuse materials is not only eco-conscious, but it’s often a great way to be budget-friendly as well.

That’s exactly what happened when some Sharp Grossmont Hospital team members put their heads together to create handmade bags for patients, using packaging material that would otherwise be thrown out.

Surgical supplies are shipped in packaging known as “blue wrap.” This specialized plastic and cloth fiber blend keeps products safe and sterilized during the shipping and distribution process. An estimated 225 million pounds of blue wrap is thrown out annually in U.S. hospitals.

One day, Linda Van Fulpen, manager of Sharp Grossmont’s Volunteer Services, and Ryan Ouellet, director of Material Management, were chatting about an article they both read about a nurse at another hospital who was making bags out of blue wrap. The two thought that with the help of the Sharp Grossmont volunteer sewing group, there might be an opportunity to make this happen at their hospital.

Linda and Ryan consulted with Traci Donahue, supervisor of Supply Chain Services, to identify a department that could use such a bag. Traci recommended the inpatient Rehabilitation Department because they regularly ordered bags for their patients’ belongings.

In the Rehabilitation Department, a patient’s day usually entails several hours of therapy, education regarding their illness or injury, and time spent with a dietitian, social worker or doctor. The bags allow patients to easily carry their personal items and educational materials with them as they continue their healing journey.

A team effort
The sewing group collaborated with team members from Occupational and Physical Therapy to design the bag to fit the needs of the patients. After four versions, they landed on a final product — a two-toned blue bag that’s equal parts style and function. Design considerations included long handles to accommodate different kinds of walkers, wheelchairs and crutches. Additionally, the bags needed to be durable, so the blue wrap fabric was a great fit. The material is flexible, strong and waterproof.

These bags are not only useful, but they offer a personal touch that exemplifies The Sharp Experience. They are handmade by experienced volunteers and each bag is adorned with a tag that states “Grossmont volunteers made this with love.”

Though this initiative is still a new practice, those involved hope to expand the program to offer the bags in other units across the hospital. This project does not require a budget or any additional resources, and the bags are appreciated by staff and patients alike.

“We are diverting material from the landfill, saving the hospital money and, most importantly, giving our patients a wonderful handmade item that serves as a reminder of the care they received even after they leave our hospital,” says Van Fulpen.

Learn more about volunteer opportunities at Sharp Grossmont Hospital.

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