Surgery can be scary, especially when you're a child. Uncomfortable rooms full of weird sounds and unpleasant smells. Unfamiliar people wearing masks and gloves and strange clothing. IV starts. Your facility will never be as welcoming as home or school, but with a little creativity, you can capture the interest of pediatric patients and distract them from their anxiety.
- Invite them over. Pre-surgical assessment visits tend to be all business and no fun. So open your doors some weekend to children from area schools and churches for a teddy bear and doll clinic. Give their plush pals wristbands, check their vital signs and simulate anesthesia and surgery. Show off your scopes and video displays on food items, like they do at conference exhibit halls. Taking kids behind the scenes of surgery makes the process a little easier to understand.
- Educate at home. Posting a virtual tour of your facility on your website can teach patients and their families about the surgical process. Design a slide show of photos depicting whom children will meet and the things they'll experience from arrival to discharge (with members of your staff and their children playing patients and parents), with easy-to-read captions to explain them. Make sure to include a telephone number they can call with any questions.
- Tempt with touchscreens. Healthcare facilities have been calming their youngest patients with crayons, coloring books and cartoons since before many of us were born, but times have changed. These days, if you lend a kid a tablet computer loaded with kid-friendly games and other interactive apps, he may not even notice the preparations going on around him as he busily plays in the pre-op bay.
- Stickers show the way. Even in this technology-driven age, strategically placed stickers will get children to do practically anything. For example, putting brightly colored decals on the scale platform, or anywhere else you regularly need them to stand still for a moment, provides you with easy directions ("Go stand on Scooby!") that they'll be quick to follow.
- Mask merriment. Another benefit of stickers: They can make frightening things friendly. Mask induction can be intimidating, but it might be less so if you give your pre-op peds a disposable anesthesia mask to see and hold and try on over their nose and mouth, and then decorate with their choice of stickers while they wait.
- Anesthesia makes scents. Anesthesia providers who keep a handful of scented lip balms in their pediatric carts will become every child's favorite surgical team member when they ask which flavor they'd like in their mask. Swipe a small amount of the lip balm inside the mask before putting it on the patient, and they get the scent of bubble gum, strawberry or tangerine instead of plastic.
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