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Sharp Health News

Helping restore patients’ dignity (video)

April 13, 2017

For more than 30 years, nurse Deb Duncan has cared for patients in the most dire of situations — trauma, domestic violence, sexual assault, homelessness. Beyond medical care, she’s always known there’s one thing that goes a long way: a clean pair of clothes to go home in.

That’s why Deb created the Community Closet at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center. Every year, more than 60,000 patients come to Sharp Chula Vista for emergency care, many of them in dirty or soiled clothing.

“Their clothes might be bloodied from an accident, or they might have soiled themselves during a seizure. They’re often very embarrassed,” Duncan says. “I see it as our duty to help them regain their dignity. In nursing school, I learned about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The most important — the foundation — are warmth, clothing, shelter and food.”

With a grant from the Sharp Chula Vista Auxiliary, Deb sought the best deals on scrub pants and bought hundreds of them. Then, she hit the road to ask for T-shirt donations. Organizers of large events donated extra shirts made for volunteers, and local race organizers donated leftover gear from running events, including medals that Deb and her colleagues give to kids in the ER to bring a smile.

Deb stores the items in her home garage. Friends from work get together to stamp and fold the clothing. Deb hopes more donations will come — she would love to add shoes for patients, especially those with foot ulcers, common among patients with diabetes. She also hopes the program will spread to ERs across the country.

“I believe people are kind and good, and that they want to help,” Duncan says. “The Community Closet is a win for everyone: donors with resources, ERs and, most importantly, patients in need.”

Donations of new clothing and shoes are welcome. To inquire about how to make a donation to the Sharp Chula Vista Community Closet, please call 1-800-82-SHARP.

For the news media: To talk with Deb Duncan about the Community Closet for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at

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