Breast cancer runs in Sharon Linder's family - her mother and both sisters have had the disease. Between spending time with them in hospitals, participating in studies and having prevention exams done at Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island, Linder has extensive experience with the examination gowns.
"Johnnies," she quips, "are uncomfortable, immodest patient gowns with a rear opening that leaves you exposed and feeling vulnerable. The flimsy, ill-fitting gowns I was given during office visits left me freezing and scrambling to clutch the garment closed.
"For self-preservation, I needed to find a better way."
Linder embarked on a journey to create a patient gown that would be better for women. The result is Jane, which she defines as "a comfortable, dignified patient gown with a front wrap opening that leaves women feeling protected and secure."
Janes will make their debut on October 1 at the Breast Health Center for outpatient visits like infusions and patient exams. They will be offered exclusively here through the end of 2012 but Linder has already been speaking to larger cancer centers across the country about offering the gowns to their patients in the long run. She also sees Janes as being good for female patients in other health care settings like orthopedics, hospital stays and at home during recuperation periods. Linder says they make a unique gift and imagines offering them for sale on the Internet so women could buy their own to bring to appointments.
"This is a statement of care and commitment by the hospital to its patients," says Linder, who spent 30 years working at IBM. "Things as small as a patient robe can contribute to a sense of caring for the patient and Women & Infants is showing tremendous leadership in acknowledging this change as significant."
Although she bills herself as the developer of Janes and not the designer, Linder enlisted input from a variety of sources through the 24-month development process. She held focus groups at The Breast Health Center, turned to her sisters, relied on input from a radiologist with 30 years experience in woman's imaging, and then collaborated with folks at Purity Linen, the laundry company that services Women & Infants, to test the durability of the fabric.
The off-white gowns with peach trim are made of a waffle-weave jersey fabric that will trap warmth next to the wearer's skin and be soft enough if rubbing against surgical sites. Designed for use during out-patient experiences - patient examinations or chemotherapy treatments, for example - Jane looks more like a robe, wrapping in the front with a generous overlap for complete coverage and a pocket. They come in two sizes for comfort.
"We are thrilled at The Breast Health Center to be able to offer our patients the latest design in patient gowns," says Robert D. Legare, MD, director of The Breast Health Center. "We have always acknowledged the inherent dignity of each patient and believe the Janes will help us further preserve this dignity during all patient encounters."
A portion of the proceeds from the sale of Janes will be donated to help fund programs for women who cannot afford mammograms, Linder adds. In addition to being available at Women & Infants, they can also be purchased at www.getjanes.com.
About Women & Infants Hospital
Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island, a Care New England hospital, is one of the nation's leading specialty hospitals for women and newborns. The primary teaching affiliate of The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University for obstetrics, gynecology and newborn pediatrics, as well as a number of specialized programs in women's medicine, Women & Infants is the eighth largest stand-alone obstetrical service in the country with nearly 8,400 deliveries per year. In 2009, Women & Infants opened what was at the time the country's largest, single-family room neonatal intensive care unit.
New England's premier hospital for women and newborns, Women & Infants and Brown offer fellowship programs in gynecologic oncology, maternal-fetal medicine, urogynecology and reconstructive pelvic surgery, neonatal-perinatal medicine, pediatric and perinatal pathology, gynecologic pathology and cytopathology, breast disease and reproductive endocrinology and infertility. It is home to the nation's only mother-baby perinatal psychiatric partial hospital, as well as the nation's only fellowship program in obstetric medicine.
Women & Infants has been designated as a Breast Center of Excellence from the American College of Radiography; a Center for In Vitro Maturation Excellence by SAGE In Vitro Fertilization; a Center of Biomedical Research Excellence by the National Institutes of Health; a National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers through the American College of Surgeons; and a Neonatal Resource Services Center of Excellence. It is one of the largest and most prestigious research facilities in high risk and normal obstetrics, gynecology and newborn pediatrics in the nation, and is a member of the National Cancer Institute's Gynecologic Oncology Group and the National Institutes of Health's Pelvic Floor Disorders Network.