A growing movement in healthcare believes getting patients out of pyjamas and hospital gowns can lead to faster recovery times and increase their quality of life.

The campaign, dubbed “End PJ Paralysis,” has already swept hospitals across parts of Europe, Australia and is now taking root in parts of in Canada. The idea is simple: allow patients to wear their regular clothes earlier in their hospital stay instead of hospital attire.

Supporters cite studies that suggest wearing pyjamas and hospital gowns kept patients in their beds, reinforced feelings of being unwell and discouraged them from getting up and walking around.

And plenty of patients, including Bob Marry, don't like the hospital gowns.

“You are always looking around to make sure the back is tied up,” said the 82-year-old patent at Rockyview General Hospital in Calgary. “You start seeing people looking around behind you and wonder what's going on.”

Even nurses find them less than ideal.

Unit manager of Rockyview Maria Galley said that “the gowns are functional but they are not fashionable.” She also said they are “not modest and they are not warm.”

Now, Alberta Health Services, which delivers medical care on behalf of the province to more than 400 facilities, has been taking the End PJ Paralysis movement to heart.

The change was implemented in some Calgary facilities back in 2018 and now, six hospitals in the health network have joined the movement.

The switch encourages patients like Barry to get into their own clothes as soon as they can comfortably do so.

“It feels good and you can get up and walk around,” Marry said.

ALBERTA JOINS THE MOVEMENT

Paul Wright, program manager of Alberta Health Services, said he’s seen this shift to personal clothing give patients a sense of identity again.

Nurses report that some patients are now wearing dresses and jewelery with one Calgary man opting for cowboy boots and hat because they made him feel normal.

“They often tell us that they feel that culture of being seen as a diagnosis has changed to being seen as a person,” he said, adding that in about 80 per cent of cases, hospital gowns aren’t really needed.

Brian Dolan, a nurse and professor of nursing at Oxford University, was responsible for starting the international campaign. He said PJ paralysis hits as soon as patients are admitted into hospital.

“People come to hospital and get into their pyjamas or gowns and then they are paralyzed in their PJs until the day they leave and it’s as simple as that,” Dolan said.

Since starting the movement in the United Kingdom, the practice of ditching hospital gowns has become a fixture in several U.K. hospitals. Supporters said it’s led to a 41 per cent reduction in bed sores, a 30 per cent reduction in falls and patients being discharged from hospital an average 1.8 days sooner.

“Better dignity, better experience, better staff well-being and spending less time in hospital – that’s the kind of difference it can make,” Dolan said.

A NATIONAL TREND?

Wright, who brought the movement to some Alberta facilities, hopes to replicate those effects in Canada.

“Staying in bed … can decrease lung capacity by 10 per cent each week and that can lead to infections,” he explained.

He said patients will be more comfortable if they have the “honour and respect of wearing their own clothes.”

Discussions are now underway to bring the movement to provinces like Saskatchewan and other regions.

Even so, “End PJ paralysis” organizers concede that patients will still need to be in hospital gowns whenever they require X-rays or other tests.

Still, supporters believe a small shift in thinking could have a big payoff.