TVs and video games critical to keep kids happy, distracted

Consider making your ED more kid-friendly with these tips from Janice Frohman, MS, RN, administrative director for emergency services at WakeMed in Raleigh, NC, and Betty Jo Torres, RN, clinical director of the ED at Verdugo Hills Hospital in Glendale, CA:

  • Pick the furniture with kids in mind.

WakeMed opted to go with curved modular seating in the waiting area instead of chairs. When shopping for furniture, Frohman took a car seat with her to see if parents could easily and safely set the seat down. With chairs, she looked "to see if those little fat toddler legs could get caught down in them."

Child-sized seating is a good idea in waiting areas intended specifically for kids.

  • Provide more than one video game if possible.

The video games will be very popular with children, so you can avoid squabbles by providing more than one. WakeMed has three video games in the waiting area. Expect to replace or reupholster the furniture in front of the video games more often than the rest of the waiting area.

  • Use signage that kids can understand.

In WakeMed’s children’s ED, the signage says "Nurse’s Place" instead of "Triage."

Restrooms have pictograms of little boys and girls instead of adult-oriented signs.

  • You can’t have too many TVs and video players.

They’re invaluable if you’re trying to calm children or distract them during treatment, Frohman says. WakeMed has TVs and video players in all the treatment rooms, and there is a "Breathing Room" where children can go to receive medical gasses. That room has a widescreen TV.

"I’ve stitched up kids while they were watching TV who otherwise would have been screaming," Frohman says. "Video games in the rooms are OK, but sometimes it’s hard to take it away from them when you need to treat them. Movies are better in the treatment areas."

  • Designate a couple of examination rooms for children if you can.

Most hospitals can’t devote an entire ED to children, but a couple of child-friendly exam rooms can make a big difference, Torres says. The rooms are still free for adult use, of course, but children will react better to a room that is painted brightly and has toys or videos. If possible, build the room so that much of the medical equipment is concealed in walls and cabinetry so that it doesn’t intimidate the child.

  • Look for the small things that can make a room more friendly to kids.

At WakeMed, the children’s area has sinks and toilets very low to the floor. Some light switches, such as those in bathrooms, are very low so kids can reach them.