Fighting the Dragon: How clothing supports cultural change

Published On: July 19th, 2011By Categories: Blog

THE GREEN HOUSE® model strives to de-institutionalize care settings while supporting elders to live in homes within intentional communities. To live the life they want to live on their own terms. Every aspect of what we do and how we do it either supports or detracts from this vision.
What we wear is germane to the overall challenge of Fighting the Dragon – stopping institutional creep. Our clothing reflects, for each of us, so many things. We choose our dress to communicate who we are, where we are going and what we are going to do. Clothing sends a message. Staff that belong to Green House communities are in the unique position of working in the home of elders. The mission of these homes is to support normal, active, engaged lives. And so the question of dress for staff (Shahbazim, nurses, and guides) becomes an issue for thoughtful consideration when The Green House homes are in development.
The leadership and staff of each organization needs to consider guidelines for staff dress based on the goals of The Green House philosophy. They need to engage staff and elders around Green House® principles to create policies and guidelines about dress.
Things to consider when developing guidelines
1. It is important for Shahbazim to determine their dress code while considering the wishes and preferences of Elders.
2. Uniforms like ‘scrubs’ and traditional healthcare uniforms send several messages like,
• this is a setting for sick people
• this is an institution
• we are here to work
• they separate us and mark us as “in charge”
• we are fundamentally different than the people we serve
3. Clothing has different norms and standards as it reflects the organizational culture. It can reflect regional differences, cultural heritage, and socio-economic values, too. The Green House homes already represent a wide range of geographic, cultural and socio-economic communities. And dress standards will necessarily impact the overall cultural fabric.
Many staff identify that scrubs and uniforms are convenient and economical for what is still very clinical work. Showers, personal care and cooking lend themselves to work dress that is flexible and durable. And, there is a need for clothing that is clean and sanitary. However, these needs should be balanced with the goal of creating and supporting home.
Whether The Green House home is open or still in planning stages, the issue of dress and its impact on culture is a very important decision to consider.
**Fighting the Dragon is a repeating topic addressing issues of Institutional Creep. Please let us know of issues you have encountered or opportunities you have had in combating institutional behaviors or ideas that are often lurking. aortigara@ncbcapitalimpact.org