Think ‘blue for the head’ when making the bed

Sunday October 9, 2011

The Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) is introducing a simple, cost-neutral infection control practice in all of its facilities using a colour coding system for pillows. 

Pillows used to support a patient’s head will soon have blue pillowcases, while pillows used to support other parts of the body will have only white pillowcases. This is to ensure pillows touching the body do not contact with the head.

Mary Gordon, Canterbury District Health Board Executive Director of Nursing, says an easy way to remember is to think ‘blue for the head when making the bed’.

The idea for blue pillowcases originated from discussions between infection control staff and Te Komiti Whakarite (Māori advisory committee).

“From the outset, both parties could see multiple benefits from the new practice, but the support of the Canterbury Laundry Service has been the key to making it happen,” Mary says.

“The beauty of this idea is its simplicity and that it delivers positive outcomes for everyone. Firstly, it applies good infection control principles and importantly, it is more respectful towards Māori cultural values.”

The new system will have no additional capital cost to the CDHB as blue pillowcases replace older white pillowcases through an ongoing renewal programme.

“Some resource will be needed for staff education initially, but this is expected to be offset over time by the potential benefits of reduced cross-infection,” Mary says.

Tahu Potiki Stirling of Nga Ratonga Hauora Māori/Māori Health Services says he is pleased to see the blue pillowcases initiative underway.

“The head is considered to be Tapu (sacred) in Māori culture. This initiative demonstrates the Canterbury District Health Board is attuned to Tikanga Māori – our cultural needs, beliefs and traditions. It is reassuring for both Māori and Pakeha to know that the CDHB is also committed to better health through minimising the chances of infection spreading while under their care,” Tahu says.​

Page last reviewed: 13 February 2014
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