Many of us can pack a change of clothes when going to the hospital, or at least have someone who can bring us what we need. However, this is not the case for everyone. Some people don't have extra clothes or a loved one they can call for help. At Sharp Grossmont Hospital, a special donation-based program supports patients in that situation.
The program started more than 15 years ago out of necessity, but had no official name until 2017 when a member of the hospital's executive team dubbed it, appropriately, Discharge With Dignity. Thanks to this initiative, no patient is discharged without a proper change of clothing. Some even receive donated walkers, canes, or wheelchairs when they do not have the means to get these items on their own.
Supported through donations and volunteers
Most of the clothing provided through Discharge With Dignity comes from the Thrift Korral, a volunteer-supported resale boutique operated by Grossmont Hospital Auxiliary. There, community donations are inspected, sorted, organized and bagged up according to size, from small to 5XL.
Barbara Marlow, the person behind the scenes sorting these donations has been doing so for the past 18 years. Each week, the hospital sends an order of what items and sizes they need, and Barbara pulls the supply from her neatly organized stockpile.
"I enjoy doing things for people, especially something like this that makes such a difference," explains Marlow. "I love working with other dedicated volunteers and look forward to coming in every week."
The Thrift Korral sends donations to the hospital, where volunteer services stores them for quick access. There, the clothes are organized in cabinets by gender, item and size. Every day, staff request donations from these cabinets and volunteers distribute them to patients in need. Discharge With Dignity, a program that has become so essential and valued, exists solely because of the generosity of people who donate and those who volunteer their time to keep it running.
Addressing the complex needs of patients
"We regularly treat patients who, due to personal or unforeseen circumstances, do not have a change of clothes — or anyone to call for help," explains Linda Van Fulpen, manager of volunteer services at Sharp Grossmont Hospital. "We give to patients in need to make sure that every individual who is discharged from our hospital leaves with a sense of dignity, knowing that we care."
Volunteer services may give out up to 25 outfits in a day. They also provide a weekly supply of clothing to the emergency room, which tends to treat more patients in need than other areas of the hospital. If a patient does not have a proper change of clothes when it's time to leave, they cannot be discharged. Providing those individuals with clothes helps with hospital throughput, or the cycle of patients moving through the hospital to make room for the newly admitted.
Some patients' needs are more complex than others', and understanding this allows staff to provide an even deeper level of care. Case management works with each department to address the unique circumstances of each patient in their care and discharge plans. The hope is that treating each patient with dignity and respect gives them the sense that their care goes beyond just treating their physical symptoms.
For the news media: To talk with Linda Van Fulpen about Discharge With Dignity for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.