Patients Enjoy New Play Area
“One more bedtime story?” “Can we stay five more minutes?” Every day, parents hear pleas from children who feel that time is going too fast. But for the pediatric patients waiting for transplants or receiving long-term treatments, time can move far too slowly.
“I don’t think a lot of people realize how long some pediatric patients stay in the hospital for treatment,” said Marie Kasprow, nurse manager of unit 44 pediatrics. “We want to give those patients the opportunity to have a place to come where they can experience normal things for their age. Giving them a place to hang out is a big deal.”
To provide a respite from hospital rooms and a gathering for patients of all ages, a team of departments band together. A small army of nurses, guest service staff, Child Life specialists, physical therapists, facilities employees and Streetlight and Arts in Medicine volunteers decided it was time to refurbish the play room on the fourth floor of the North Tower.
Dr. Shelley Wells Collins, chief of pediatric hospital medicine, served as the physicians’ champion to support the allocation of funding for the project, seeking a gift from Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals to provide support. Susan Hahn, project manager, oversaw the revamp and worked closely with Christina Mullen, the interior designer at UF Health Shands.
Due to a substantial gift on behalf of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital, the room finally debuted in May 2013, after a year of planning. Following the tiled gator paw prints on the floor leads the patients to new computers and laptops, a brand new flat screen TV with a gaming center, modular couches, a library and new toys. Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals celebrated the renovation with a small reception, focusing on the impact local dollars have on local kids.
Nine-year-old AnnaRose, who is currently a patient, said she especially likes “going to the playroom to hang out with friends and doing arts and crafts and medical play.”
The décor of the room is modern and bright and the activities are geared to accommodate both young patients and pre-teens and adolescents.
“The goal was to update it, and make it more cheerful and a multipurpose place for kids to come,” Kasprow said. “It’s a more dynamic place to do things, with a more stimulating environment. They don’t feel like they’re in a hospital and they can engage with one another.”
Child life specialists use play and recreation as a therapeutic intervention, particularly for long-term and highly anxious patients. “Play is a powerful tool in minimizing the stress and trauma of a hospital experience,” said Chris Brown, Director of Child Life Services. “The new space lends itself to a variety of expressive activities and helps kids of all ages cope with anxiety, loneliness, and other strong feelings.”
While some limitations have been enforced to adhere to patient safety and exposing already sick children, almost all of the patients can come enjoy the area. Advanced technology makes this possible with accommodations like the equipment installed in the wall for seizure monitoring. Also, any information recorded (like brain activity or EKG monitoring) is within range of delivery to the emergency medical unit, and a camera streams a live feed directly to the nurses’ station.
Access to the room also brings amenities like martial arts sessions, which introduce relaxation and body control, as well as reading groups, movie nights and the evening “lounge” for teens through Streetlight. Volunteers also conduct “free-choice” activities like card or board games throughout the day.
“It gives them the opportunity to be involved in activities that help them cope with their illness,” Kasprow said. “We want to give them the opportunity to be a kid because that’s what they need. It is our duty and responsibility to make that a primary need of children when they come into the hospital.”