My wife is studying nursing in Canada and she was puzzled the other day as to how to ask a patient to only remove a single hand from one of the sleeves. The entire sweater could not be removed because the other hand was connected to the IV. She managed to do it eventually with the help of gestures, but it's always nice to be able to explain something just using words.

I'm attaching a picture with a T-shirt, but we actually had a thick sweater with long sleeves.

Would anyone have any good suggestions as to how to properly explain it to the patient?

Some examples that I came up with that I don't like because they are probably confusing:

Could you please remove your left hand from the sleeve? You can keep your sweater on, but we need to free up your left hand from the sweater.

enter image description here

  • 4
    Not "your left hand" but "your left arm". Hands usually stay free even from long-sleeved garments unless it's a straitjacket :) ("Arm" is the whole extremity from shoulder to the tip of your fingers; "hand" is what starts from your wrist and ends with the tips of your fingers.)
    – user68912
    Feb 19, 2018 at 16:19

1 Answer 1


The most direct way I can think of is "Take your right/left arm out of its sleeve, but leave your sweater on."

Honestly, though, your example would probably work fine. At least to a native speaker, while slightly oddly worded, you would get the message across. In my example, the primary thing stopping full shirt removal is the "but leave your sweater on" part, which emphasizes that your end goal is the removal of only one arm -- not both, from the shirt.

Tangentially, if you're asking a patient at a doctor's office or clinic to do this, though, a gesture can never hurt. When giving medical instructions, people often hesitate to respond to instructions they might normally understand, just because they want to be "correct" and not make any assumptions.

The most helpful thing in your second example sentence is "we need to free up your left hand from the sweater" because it gives the patient an objective they can try to aim for. If you were to say "we need to free up your left arm," that would be more clear as it helps evoke that simply rolling up the sleeve won't do -- it needs to be fully off.

Finally, a reminder that "your right arm is connected to an IV, and we don't want to dislodge it" can help reinforce the end goal. In a medical situation, it can never hurt to provide more information about why something has to happen.

The only one sleeve part is pretty clear if both a goal for freeing it, as well as a consequence for going too far, are defined.

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