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St. Anthony Hospital

A peek inside ‘St. Anthony’s Closet’

Hospital staff organize effort to clothe patients


Oftentimes when a patient finds themselves at the hospital, there’s not a lot of time for planning.

“I was discharging a patient who didn’t have any support here locally, he even was going to have to take a cab when he left here,” remembered Kellie Costanza, a registered nurse from the Neuro-Trauma Intensive Care Unit at St. Anthony. “He was traveling from out of town when his trauma injury brought him to St. Anthony Hospital. As a trauma patient his clothes had to be cut off, so he had nothing to leave with and no one to bring him anything.”

Emergencies sometimes require clothes to be cut off, and if a patient is homeless, they may not have many clothes to begin with.

“In these kinds of situations, we don’t want to send patients out with nothing on their backs but their hospital gown,” said Edwin Cook, clinical nurse manager for the Medical-Surgical unit.

“We want to be there for all the patient’s needs, and find a way for them to have options when they come here,” added Janet Thomas, RN administrative manager at the hospital.

To that end, Cook and Thomas took a project from the hospital’s leadership development program, and turned it into a way to help patients in need through the creation of “Anthony’s Closet.” As the name implies, it’s a closet in the NeuroTrauma ICU (on the hospital’s second floor) that holds donated clothing and shoes for adult men and women.

“We had some of these items before, but they were spread out and really disorganized,” Cook explained. “Opening the closet was like diving into a garage sale.”

When trying to help her patient, Costanza was able to provide some clothes, even if it wasn’t the best fit.

“At the time I went to the closet all we had stocked were extra-large sizes but I was still able to find something that worked,” Costanza said. “I got him a pair of sandals and a shirt. He wore some hospital pants, but he still appreciated everything. The only other alternative would have been a hospital gown.”

Now nurses and staff who are preparing to discharge a patient who is need of clothing can go to this closet, and find everything from pants and shirts to socks and shoes. Everything is now organized by size for best use, and there’s a system in place for replenishing the closet when stock runs low.

“Anthony’s closet is awesome. While it is located on the floor that I work on, staff use it from all around the hospital,” Costanza said. “I think it really is a necessity here and it helps a lot of people. Considering this was once just an unused closet, I think it is really great that we are putting it to good use and that our staff are the ones that fill it.”

All the items are donated by hospital staff, Thomas explained, with a particular emphasis on warm clothing as winter draws nearer.

“We’re hoping this model can catch on at other hospitals and businesses,” she added. “It was a six month project to get it all organized, but now nurses have it to help our patients in need.”


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