ROANOKE, Va. — I once wrote about having an opportunity to use reusable barrier isolation gowns in all the hospitals that comprise the Carilion Clinic. The ability to start such a program was rewarding after having failed to gain approval over the previous seven years.
We had two major fears as we were getting ready to start. We wanted to make sure the reusable barrier gowns were returned to the laundry for reprocessing and we wanted to make sure that the nurses were properly trained on how to tie the reusable gowns. We wanted them to be able to use a similar technique to which they had become accustomed with the disposable gowns.
Working with a nursing unit director and the hospital training department, we developed an in-service program. The education piece includes information about the environmental impact of switching from disposable barrier gowns. It also explains the quality-control system in use, details the expected cost savings associated with shifting to reusables, and addresses how to maintain proper gowning technique.
We began with a 60-day trial on four units. We surveyed the staff after 30 days and again after 60 days to determine product acceptance. The staff was pleasantly surprised by the reusable barrier isolation gown, commenting that:
This study resulted in full product approval by the infection control committee and the nursing product standardization committee. We rolled out the program gradually, adding four units every six weeks until the entire system was using the reusable barrier isolation gowns.
When we began, we were producing 1,500 reusable barrier isolation gowns per month for one or two departments. We are now averaging 87,000 gowns per month.
The additional business has been great for our laundry, and we have reduced our system’s cost for isolation gowns by $300,000 per year.