Hospitals seek to reduce anxiety with young patients

Colleen Horton, Emma O'Brien

Colleen Horton, Emma O'Brien

Taking an ill child to the hospital for an emergency visit or a longer stay can be a trying time for both child and parent. Northern Nevada hospitals strive to make their child service areas more kid friendly and also have enhanced service delivery methods in an effort to alleviate and reduce anxiety.

Renown Regional Medical Center has gone to great lengths to improve its child care with the creation of the region’s only children’s emergency room. Renown also has a dedicated pediatric intensive care unit, the David and Judy Hess Children’s Imaging Center and children’s healing garden. One of the primary goals when designing these areas, says Phyllis Freyer, a vice president at Renown, is to create common design elements across all the children’s areas since they aren’t contiguous within the hospital.

“It is important when walking into these areas to have a sense that this is a children’s area,” Freyer says.

Kid-friendly areas in the hospital help put children and families at ease, and having a dedicated emergency room removes families from the often frenetic pace of the adult emergency room.

“Any ER is not an ideal location to have a sick child,” Freyer adds.

Additionally, exam rooms in the children’s ER have images on the walls of children playing and doing health activities. Renown also has a “distraction station,” that includes a big tube filled with water with bubbles inside. Kids can work controls to change the color of the bubbles. Freyer says that when kids have something interesting to look at they are distracted from their sickness or condition and benefit from reduced anxiety.

Brynne Morgan, registered nurse at Carson Tahoe Regional Health Care, says the children’s pediatric waiting area was designed with brighter colors, cheerful patterns and polka-dot furniture. Exam rooms have fish on the ceiling to make the area more appealing. The lobby of the pediatric unit also is filled with toys and fun things to do so kids waiting for services don’t get bored, and kids in exam rooms can take a break from care if necessary.

“Being stuck in a room is hard for anybody, so it is important to get out, and once they start playing with the toys with parents and visitors it cheers them up,” Morgan says.

The hospital also has a room stocked with DVD movies, Disney movies and cartoons, console video games and a library of kids’ books.

Northern Nevada Medical Center in Sparks hasn’t created any special kid-friendly appeal to its lobby areas because patients are whisked into exam rooms within 15 minutes of arrival, says Shelby Hunt, director of emergency services. Rooms that are used to treat children are done up in pastel colors, though, and pictures of small animals adorn the ceiling. Staff also keep young children occupied with crayons, stickers, books and stuffed animals.

Equally important is the focus on service delivery to small children. Morgan says most of the nurses and staff at Carson Tahoe’s pediatrics wing specialize in child care by choice.

“In nursing school you learn everything and then go into area that you like and want to be in,” Morgan says. “Everyone kind of finds their own niche. The nurses on our floor take special classes in pediatrics. We learn it on the job, but everyone who works here loves kids and taking care of a whole family.”

Medical decisions and treatments always include the entire family — nothing is done without parents being present, she adds.

NNMC’s Hunt says nurses at the east Sparks facility are trained in ways to relate medical care to the age level of individual patients. For instance, nurses are trained on when it’s appropriate to explain medical procedures to children and to be sensitive to the privacy needs of pre-teens and adolescents.

“It is getting to the level of the child and incorporating them into their plan of care,” Hunt says.

Providing care at the level of the patient is crucial for building trust and helps get procedures done more quickly and efficiently, adds Bre Taylor, director of pediatrics and the NICU department at St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center. Physicians and nurses strive to create a non-threatening environment so that children don’t think everything that’s going to happen is scary or painful. The hospital also employs pediatric-specific equipment that appears less threatening than adult equipment of the same nature.

“When they are not scared you are able to build trust and bond with them, and they are more cooperative,” Taylor says.


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