Critical care physician creates curly hair kits for patients

Critical care physician creates curly hair kits for patients

“Hair is part of a person’s identity, and recognizing a patient’s identity helps them heal faster,” says Dr. Kay Jacobs, a critical care physician at Advocate Children’s Hospital – Park Ridge.

As a Black physician, Dr. Jacobs knows firsthand about caring for curly and coiled hair. These hair types are especially prevalent in the Black community and are often characterized as hair that is extremely dry and fragile. To keep these two hair types healthy, extra steps and special products are frequently used.

Dr. Jacobs’ saw this translate into her work after witnessing multiple children experience adverse hair events while in the intensive care unit. She soon realized the hair care options being offered to her patients were not inclusive.  

She recalls one particular patient whose experience stands out in her mind.

“She was immobile in her hospital bed, and her hair hadn’t been protected. By the time she was able to move, the back of her head was bald,” Dr. Jacobs remembers.

This motivated Dr. Jacobs to begin helping hospitalized patients care for their hair. Partnering with the supply chain team, she ordered specific hair products for curly-haired patients. She began packaging kits to offer patients, oftentimes even putting them together on her own kitchen table.

Now, Dr. Jacobs is on a mission to make curly hair kits available to all Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care patients.

“I want patients and families to know that we care about each of them as individuals,” she says. “We’re here to take care of all of you, not to just give you medicine. As clinicians, we understand that how you feel about yourself is important. That’s usually the first thing a person apologizes for when a clinician comes into the room. Being hospitalized can take a person’s confidence away. We know how important it is to feel like yourself.”

Advocate Children’s Hospital is now offering inclusive hair options for our patients. Curly hair kits are curated for any patient with curly and/or coily-textured hair. This much-needed offering is a simple way to help patients with textured hair know they are welcome and well cared for during their stay. The kit is complete with a hair bonnet, curl-safe shampoo and conditioner, a wide-tooth comb and a firm bristle brush.

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  1. What a wonderful expression of patient-centered healthcare – Brava Dr. Jacobs!!!

  2. Kudos Dr. Jacobs, the supply chain team and everyone who helped bring inclusive hair care options to patients.

  3. Maryann Marchiafava February 6, 2023 at 1:05 pm · Reply

    This is a wonderful article and an even better example of how doctors can make their hospitalized patients feel better about their experience. I am not a child, but I do have very curly hair. In an early January of this year I was hospitalized for three days. I was desperate to have my hair care products with me so I could feel a little more presentable and not like I just touched a live socket. I had to call my son and instruct him which products to bring to the hospital. I would very much like to see this kit offered to adults as well. I would also recommend that if possible a curl gel or mousse be added to the kit.

  4. While I’m white and do not have curly hair, this is a great idea. I was in Intensive Care for over a month. On the day I was being discharged I was finally allowed to shower and wash my hair. It was nearly impossible because of how matted it was. I had ultrasound gel caked in it from repeated tests. While I struggled to shower (because I was so weak) I cried in the because as I was shampooing, etc. and combing through my hair, it was coming out in big clumps.

  5. WOW! HUGE Kudos to Dr. Jacobs and her team for thinking of this.

  6. Wow! This is awesome, being a woman of color as well as a health professional, I definitely understand how important hair care and image is to our community. This was so thoughtful thank you to the Dr’s who pioneered this.

  7. Brava to the physicians who curated these kits! What a wonderful example of caring for the whole patient. Hopefully these kits can be offered throughout the system and not just for pediatric patients.

  8. I love this Dr. Jacobs! Truly putting our patients first.

  9. This is Awesome! Hair, hair care and image go hand in hand. So glad someone thought of this and even more so, were able to implement this into patient whole body care.

  10. KUDOS!!! Such a wonderful example of taking a wholistic approach to meeting the needs of the populations you serve. Hopefully, this will be extended beyond the pediatric population.

  11. I absolutely love this, Dr. Jacobs! Thank you for encouraging such a compassionate and wholistic approach for our patients.

  12. What a wonderful way to help treat the soul as well as the body. Maybe other hospital sites can consider a similar program. I’m proud of how people at AAH problem solve to help patients!

  13. What a terrific and thoughtful idea. More ideas about providing comfort measures for our patients are needed such as this one. Such a simple act of kindness and care makes all the difference in the healing process. Bless you Dr Jacobs!

  14. What a masterpiece!! Thank your for thinking about our patients and the quality of care that encompasses every aspect of our body — from the head to the feet. You have made so many families happy knowing that the whole body will be taking care of!! One of my granddaughters have coily hair and I would hate to think of her being in the hospital and having no products that she could use to reflect her type of hair. Bravo! And thank you again!

  15. This is awesome. How can corporations or individuals help with care kits?

  16. What a great idea!! Congratulations on being so innovative with the little things in life! Kudos to you Dr. Jacobs and your team!!

  17. Awesome!!!! This is something that is truly needed. It is great that ideas of improving inclusion are being addressed. Great job!

  18. Angela M McKinley February 28, 2023 at 12:03 pm · Reply

    As an patient with curly hair in my early teens until now, I would have loved to see such products and ideas. I was confident in the surgeries I’d endure because I shared this with both parents. What a wonderful gift that would have been to receive this from a childs advantage. Keep up the magic. Thank you.

  19. Hi!

    Are there any opportunities to help assemble the care packages?

    Thank you!

  20. I love this. This is such a wonderful idea, and this will definitely help someone in the hospital feel like themselves. Hair is very important to the human body. Thank you so much Dr. Jacobs.

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About the Author

Holly Brenza
Holly Brenza

Holly Brenza, health enews contributor, is a public affairs coordinator on the content team at Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago. In her free time, Holly enjoys reading, watching the White Sox and Blackhawks, playing with her dog, Bear and running her cats' Instagram account, @strangefurthings.