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Caring Closet extends the role of nurses into patients


When a patient arrives at the 40-bed Psychiatric Research Institute at UAMS, sometimes for five or six days at a stretch, the last thing they are thinking about is bringing a change of clothes or packing an overnight bag, if such is to be had at all. 

Staffers at the unit noticed how many of the 30 adult inpatients had not so much as a toothbrush for the stay, let along anyone to bring them one. So, they decided to do something as an extension of the clinical nursing care they were providing. 

“It’s important that our patients be comfortable in their surroundings to better focus on their treatment,” said Judy Seidenschnur, director of nursing for the Psychiatric Research Institute. “Many of these patients arrive through the UAMS Emergency Department with little more than the clothes on their backs.”

Out of this dire circumstance, the Caring Closet was born. The nurses and technical staff began collecting casual clothing — everything from jeans and sweatpants to T-shirts and shoes — and storing them in a closet on the building’s sixth floor. It wasn’t long before the scope of the need led the nursing staff to appeal to all of the institute’s employees for new or slightly used clothing.

In the six years since it was launched, the Caring Closet has expanded to include toiletries, coats and reading materials, all donated by institute faculty and staff. The closet is organized by a group of hard-working volunteers who spend two to three days a week sorting through bags of clothing to find those that fit the needs of patients of all ages and sizes. 

“The Caring Closet is a great example of what can happen when volunteers and nursing staff work together to solve a problem,” said Seidenschnur. “The response by the patients has been immeasurable, and the staff take pride in knowing they made a difference in the lives of those they serve.”


Nursing Notes

“Be aware that you don’t know very much when you start out and that as you work, the book learning will begin to link to the patient and his or her needs. Continue learning, ask questions and be gentle with yourself.”

Lori Murray, DNP, RN-BC, assistant director undergraduate studies Eleanor Mann School of Nursing
Years in Nursing: 10


Lori Murray, DNP, RN-BC
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