New isolation gowns aim to be ‘safer, more comfortable and sustainable’
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New isolation gowns aim to be ‘safer, more comfortable and sustainable’

May 22, 2023

Source: Nottingham Trent University

New isolation gowns, that academics say could be "safer, more comfortable and sustainable" than existing types, as well as potentially helping to protect nurses against Covid-19, are being developed by UK researchers.

The prototypes have been developed through a collaboration between Nottingham Trent University (NTU) and the University of Maribor in Slovenia.

"Comfort is key in this context, as somebody could be wearing one of these gowns for a very long shift"

Katherine Townsend

The samples come in polyester and carbon textile, materials with antiviral properties that can be washed in temperatures that kill off viruses and bacteria, according to those behind the initiative.

Since most isolation gowns currently are disposed of after a single use, they said their new style of gown could allow for the safe reusing of items after washing as well as decrease waste.

Professor Katherine Townsend, of Nottingham School of Art & Design, worked in collaboration with Dr Sonja Sterman, a uniform and corporate wear specialist, from the University of Maribor to create the new prototypes.

One of the new prototypes

The designs feature ribbed necklines, dropped and raglan sleeves for "easier arm movements", and deep cuffs with thumb holes that can be altered for length.

There are three prototypes altogether. The first fastens at the back, the second the front left shoulder and the third is zero-waste to maximise sustainability.

The gowns are being created in small, medium and large, accommodating sizes XS to XXXL.

Nursing staff from Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust and Diaverum UK were among the healthcare workers who gave feedback on gown designs, which was then taken into consideration.

"Improved comfort for the wearer, to allow nurses to perform their roles with greater ease," was a key piece of feedback according to the researchers.

Professor Townsend said: "Nurses do such an important job by laying their own personal health on the line for their patients, so it's important that they’re given the best equipment possible.

"Isolation gowns are not currently afforded the research and development that a typical uniform is, yet they’re used every day to protect thousands of people on the frontline of healthcare.

"This is about moving forwards to a higher level of design and fit, which is sustainable in terms of the environment and the suitability to the wearer," she said.

Professor Townsend highlighted that the new designs were a response to Covid-19, and that most nurses told them that, while personal protective equipment (PPE) made them feel protected, it was often "uncomfortable".

This, she said, was due to poor fit and fabric quality. "Comfort is key in this context, as somebody could be wearing one of these gowns for a very long shift and performing their role under a lot of stress."

Professor Townsend added that, by improving comfort, nurses won't be distracted by their clothing and will be able perform their job with "greater peace of mind".

In addition to Professor Townsend and Dr Sterman, Eloise Salter and Karen Harrigan, pattern cutting designers, from the fashion department at NTU were part of the team who worked on the project.

The researchers are currently working with a private sector PPE provider on the next stage of the project, involving wearer trials with nurses at UK hospitals.

They are also keen to gain further feedback from nurses across the UK about the "gowns they are wearing, their experiences and preferences", via an anonymous survey.

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