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Nurse Invents Better Design for Isolation Gowns

By Ranica Arrowsmith, contributing editor | February 12, 2014

The GoGown wraps into a self-contained bundle to decrease risk of contamination spread.

You see a need, you fill it. It’s as simple as that for Ginny Porowski, a Raleigh, NC-based nurse and licensed professional counselor. In her years of both inpatient and outpatient nursing experience, Porowski observed a problem with isolation gowns used in hospital environments. The gowns, which are worn by hospital staff as well as people visiting patients in medical isolation (imposed either by a compromised immunity or infectious disease), were filling up waste receptacles to the point of overflow. This was increasing the risk of point of care infection and contamination spread. So Porowski came up with a new type of gown that could be removed, bundled up and tabbed closed before disposal, reducing the risk of contact contamination and increasing the amount of disposed gowns that can fit in a bin.

The gown, which is branded as the GoGown, is based on a simple concept: the diaper.

“Think about disposing a soiled diaper. We would never take that diaper and just toss it in the trash,” Porowski says. “You roll it up and then you tab it. Well, many of the contaminants on disposable gowns are invisible. So what you have is something that is potentially far more dangerous than a soiled diaper overflowing in waste receptacles that could be in operating rooms, patient rooms, or anywhere that such a gown is used.”

The GoGown is designed with an interior wrapper made of a nonwoven material on the lower edge of the gown. After removing the gown and gloves, the wearer rolls the gloves within the gown, winds this interior wrapper around the entire package and secures it using the affixed adhesive tab. The end result is a tightly bound, secure bundle whose size, shape and weight make it easy to discard—and here’s the key—without leaving any contaminated surfaces exposed. While a standard sized hospital bin can overflow with only five loosely tossed gowns, 30 compactly wrapped GoGowns can easily fit in the same bin.

“First I saw the problem,” Porowski says, explaining the conception of GoGown. “I understood that waste containers in hospitals were overflowing with used, disposed, potentially contaminated isolation gowns. As a nurse I understood that the gowns that were worn to protect from point of care infection or from contact contamination were also, after use, potential vehicles for spreading contamination. The gowns are flimsy and just a few gowns can fill up a trash receptacle very quickly. And then, they start to overflow. That was a big red flag to me. I understood that nurses needed a better tool. They needed an improved gown that could be bundled up into a small compact bundle for a safe disposal, which allowed many, many more gowns to be safely disposed in that same waste receptacle. I decided I was going to design it—I put a panel on the lower inside edge of a disposable gown, and I bundled it up with best nursing technique and saw that it could be bundled in a very small compact bundle.”

But getting her idea from conception to materialization, Porowski says, was “quite a journey.” Back in 2009 when she first had the idea, she filed a patent. She then vetted her idea with nonwovens experts, infection control leaders, business people, and of course, nurses. The inventor was fortunate enough to have some great resources in North Carolina. She teamed up with Lisa Bourget, a 20-year health care product management and business development veteran. Together, Porowski and Bourget developed the GoGown commercialization strategy and were selected for N.C. IDEA’s Groundwork Labs in Durham, NC, a program to help technology entrepreneurs reach their next stage. In turn, Groundworks connected Porowski with Charlotte-based Edison Nation Medical, an incubator for medtech innovations. Product developer Edison Nation had begun a collaboration with Carolinas Healthcare System in July 2012 to form Edison Nation Medical, whose mission it is to help bring new medical invention ideas to life. Porowski submitted her idea to Edison Nation Medical, which in turn licensed the GoGown to Medline Industries Inc., a medical device manufacturer based in Illinois.

“We’re excited to partner with Edison Nation Medical on the GoGown because they share our passion for developing solutions to our customers’ biggest challenges,” says Stephanie Pasko, vice president of Medline’s Preventive Care division. “Reducing hospital-acquired infections is a major priority for our customers and the GoGown complements our existing array of gowns, gloves, masks and other protective apparel solutions to help make it easier for our customers to enhance patient and staff safety.”   

“I’m thrilled that GoGown will be making its debut in Carolinas Healthcare System,” Porowski says.

The GoGown, which has two issued U.S. patents and has foreign patents pending, will be on the U.S. market before 2014 is half over.

“For an individual to change something within healthcare is a big task, but I felt that it was a responsibility to see this idea through,” Porowski says. “I knew that all of us are either going to be a patient in the hospital one day, or we are going to have someone we know and love as a patient in the hospital, and the overarching problem of hospital acquired infections is of great concern to patients, hospitals and healthcare workers. Anything that could be done to decrease the opportunity for contact transmission of infection was really important.”

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