Major medical advances like minimally-invasive surgery, gene sequencing and stem cell research have occurred in the past 10 years. But the polyester tiger gowns and pants worn by pediatric patients in the hospital remained the same. Until now.

Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital recently unveiled new gowns and pajamas for kids in a fashion show in the playroom on Floor 11, complete with runway and patient models.

Out with the old, in with the new

The PJ project was initiated two years ago by a recommendation from the teen council at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital to change the long-standing tiger pajamas to a more age-friendly theme. The child life and supply chain management teams partnered with West Michigan Shared Hospital Laundry, the system’s health care linen management cooperative, to come up with a new solution.

“We started with a blank slate and asked kids what they wanted in pajamas,” said Pam Gurd, laundry supervisor within supply chain management at Spectrum Health.

The few design must-haves: gender-neutral, simple patterns that works for infants through young teenagers.

“We also had to be conscious about the pattern because some can negatively impact those with conditions like epilepsy and cause seizures,” said Holly Hopkins, director of client relations, West Michigan Shared Hospital Laundry. “Although, the most challenging part was finding a design that everyone liked.”

Following closely the abundance of circles found throughout the architecture and design of the children’s hospital, the teen council recommended a contemporary circle pattern, which was supported by the Patient and Family Advisory Council, hospital leadership and the 31-member laundry cooperative.

The new ‘Orb’ pediatric apparel line was born.

Function as well as fashion

The team didn’t just give the pajamas a more contemporary pattern, they also updated the fabric construction to give patients a better experience. While both the old tiger and new orbit pajamas are made of 100 percent polyester, the tiger versions were woven, while the orbit versions are knit.

The patient models liked the change in how the fabric feels. The new fabric is softer and has a little more stretch.

“These are much more comfortable. They have a soothing feeling,” said Miguel Herrera, 13. “They feel more flexible, like it will be easier for kids to move in them when they’re in pain.”

“I have a severe skin condition and sometimes it hurts to move in regular clothes,” he added. “In material like this, it’s easier to move.”

Mason Lincoln, 5, another patient model, was also a fan.

Mason said, ‘I like these; I don’t want to put the others back on,’” shared Molly Lincoln, Mason’s mother. “They look comfortable. I’d like a pair.”

For the laundry team at Spectrum Health, there is an additional benefit of knit fabric being wrinkle resistant, so they don’t need to be pressed as part of the laundry process.

To West Michigan and beyond

The new Orb pediatric apparel line is being rolled out to patients in the children’s hospital over the next several weeks as the current supply of gowns and pants are used up.

After that, Hopkins shared, they will be available to pediatric patients who receive care at other health care providers who belong to the laundry cooperative, which reaches from Ludington to St. Joseph.

The pajamas, produced by American Dawn, will also be available to health care organizations throughout the country.

“It’s exciting for us, Spectrum Health, to be the ones to initiate and come up with a design that impacts a whole line of pajamas produced by the company,” Gurd said.

“But what was special about this project was for those of us in supply chain management and laundry to see the direct impact of what we do on our patients,” she added. “We’re usually just the ‘delivery people.’ But with this, our whole team was able to impact what kids are wearing.”

It’s also rewarding for members of the teen council and it’s leaders, Sarah Smith, the Child Life teacher and educational liaison, along with Child Life specialists Spencer Slaghuis and Carly Weiden, to see their ideas come to life.

“After a lot of planning and waiting I am very excited that the PJs are finally getting to be worn by the patients,” said Kristi Kortman, a teen council member. “I can’t wait to see them on the kiddos next time I am at the hospital.”

“I am so happy that we were able to do this for other children,” Mishaya Boss, former teen council member, agreed. “It may have taken a while, but we did it.”