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Linen from the Patient Perspective

Author offers view of healthcare linens from hospital bed

ROANOKE, Va. — I recently had the experience of being a patient in a hospital I serviced with linen during my 44 years of laundry management. I was in for a total left hip joint replacement surgery. 

The patient perspective on healthcare is different from those that work in the industry. While my stay was brief, less than 30 hours, I did come away with several definite conclusions. 

I have yet to find a comfortable hospital bed. The longer you stay in the bed, the more uncomfortable it becomes. Textile products should be used to make it more comfortable. Patients focus on the comfort of the linen: The feel of the wash cloth and the bath towel. 

While I must admit that I made ample use of the available pain pills, the warmth and comfort of the bed linens were a strong secondary concern. Nothing more directly touched me, and for a longer period of time during my stay, than the textile products.

When I arrived at my room, I had uncontrollable shakes as the pain medication I was given during surgery was wearing off, and I had yet to get any additional medication on the nursing unit. 

My room felt cold, so additional blankets were added to my bed to help warm me up. The nursing staff adjusted the thermostat in the room to create a warmer environment. The pain medication, extra blankets and increased temp did the trick, and the shakes were gone. 

Patients have very little to occupy their time. Yes, nursing is always coming in to check vital signs, and food service will deliver a meal to you three times a day, even if you cannot stand to eat what they deliver. 

I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and as a member, I do not drink tea or coffee. My religious preferences were noted at my pre-admission check in. But for some reason dietary did not get the message. Coffee and/or tea was served with every meal. They must have looked at my medical chart because all my meals were for a diabetic, a condition I have not had in my life for the past 20 years. 

I tried to sleep at night, but my room was near the nursing station, and the crew was having a wonderful time loudly discussing all manner of items and keeping me awake. I finally had to push my call button and ask them not so politely to shut up. 

Why do I tell you all this? Because it frames my state of mind as I looked at my bed linen. 

I felt disgust as I saw a small piece of tape stuck to my warm blanket. It was obvious that the tape had been there before it was washed and survived the cleaning process. I understood the challenge a laundry faced in dealing with this problem. But still, it left me feeling like a second-class patient. I could not even get a good, clean blanket. 

When a patient goes into the hospital, they expect pain and discomfort. They expect to be missed by housekeeping and to be served mass-produced, bland food. But all patients are laundry experts, and they expect clean, comfortable linen to aid in the healing process. 

They are not looking for a cut-rate service. They do not want cheap, imported textiles that can be used as scrub board. They expect the textile products to compliment the healing process, to be stain-free, tape-free and comfortable.

How does your linen service endeavor to meet those patient expectations?

Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Matt Poe at [email protected].