Patient Satisfaction Planner: Closed-circuit TV wins fans in children’s hospital

All can participate via interactive programming

An innovative closed-circuit TV (CCTV) network at a children’s hospital in Atlanta has made a significant contribution to patient and family satisfaction while boosting the morale and self-esteem of bedridden children.

"Children’s TV" is provided to patients at the Scottish Rite and Egleston campuses of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. (Each campus offers its own separate programming.) The programs are attended in person by ambulatory patients, but also can be seen in patients’ rooms.

Children’s TV is part of a broader initiative called Child Life programming, but, "This is the only Child Life programming in the hospital that can be seen in a child’s room," notes Paula R. Fine, MS, who joined the staff in 1993 as a Child Life specialist and host/producer of Children’s TV at the Scottish Rite campus.

"This can reach everybody; it reaches the emergency department, the intensive care unit — even our clinics across the street," she points out.

Children’s TV, which is aired once a week, provides a wide variety of programming, from interviews with local celebrities (such as former Atlanta Braves pitcher Dale Murphy, heavyweight boxer Evander Holyfield, CNN anchors, and local DJs) and national celebrities such as astronauts, to educational shows on the health risks of tobacco or the role of therapy pets, to fun events such as bingo. Other programs are dedicated to national holidays, such as Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

"The variety and diverse programming that I offer, most children would not otherwise have an opportunity to see," says Fine. "We also try to offer multicultural programming."

"The CCTV initiative started because, while we have play rooms on each of the floors, they only service the kids who can get out of bed," explains Roni Mintz, CCLF, coordinator of the Child Life department, on the Scottish Rite campus. "CCTV reaches [children] who cannot get out of bed, so they can participate and have the feeling of socializing with their peers," she points out.

Interactivity a key factor

It is the interactive capacity of the program that enables this socialization. Patients and their families are notified about upcoming programs through fliers, and through Hospital Happenings, a weekly schedule of all the fun programming in the hospital. (See examples of program fliers, below.) Then, the programs are announced on the PA system 30 minutes and 15 minutes before airing. Sometimes, Fine will deliver a personal flier to the room.

Children in their rooms are instructed to tune to Channel 4 and given a telephone extension that links them to the show, enabling them to ask celebrities questions, to participate in the wide range of contest shows that are offered, and to have the same chance to win prizes as those in the audience. They can even play bingo from their beds or create art projects that are shown on TV.

Decreasing isolation

"This decreases their sense of isolation, which in turn, helps children feel positive and builds their self-esteem," says Fine. "When they call up or get their art project shown on the air, they feel part of a group, which benefits their health."

Goals for the program include:

  • provide alternatives to commercial television;
  • provide entertaining and educational programming;
  • inform patients and their families about safety and health care issues;
  • provide information to decrease anxiety about hospitalization;
  • decrease feelings of isolation;
  • provide opportunities for self-expression and peer support.

Children’s TV, she adds, actually is a product that encompasses two separate education channels. One is for families and children, and the other is for adult education. A variety of videos are shown with safety, health care, parenting, and nutrition information.

Children’s TV fits neatly into the Child Life concept, says Mintz, who oversees 15 Child Life specialists. "Child Life includes various services to the child and family," she notes. These include activities such as pet therapy or family nights, which are not part of Children’s TV.

All Child Life components have three main objectives:

  • preparation and teaching — explaining the procedures that will happen;
  • teaching children various coping techniques to use during painful procedures and other uncomfortable situations;
  • children’s play aspect (Children’s TV).

The sense of normalization created by Children’s TV is critical, says Mintz. "Just like an adult’s workday gives him self-esteem and a sense of purpose, Children’s TV gives the children something to do, and an opportunity to act out whatever is going on. "Its message is, I may be sick, but I can certainly keep up with other things in my life.’"

Typically, what happens is there is a much stronger sense of compliance with regard to procedures, such as IV starts, because of the Child Life program.

"There is an understanding of what is going to happen," Mintz explains. "We generally rehearse the procedure with the child [with puppets and other amusing devices]. Research has proven that lengths of stay are probably shorter when there is increased compliance."

Benefits are many

Mintz says that Children’s TV has proved to be a valuable tool in both boosting satisfaction and improving quality of care. "The anxiety level is very high when children are first admitted," she notes. "TV helps reduce that anxiety, and when anxiety is reduced, you typically get better compliance." In addition, Mintz considers the program an effective self-esteem booster. "The child gains some sense of control back," she notes. "If Paula’s playing bingo, and the child can call up and say I won!’ over the air, they feel in control. This absolutely lowers stress levels."

It also is a family bonding tool. "Typically, the family will do something together, like the art project or bingo," notes Mintz. "It might have been a stressful day medically, but families can do this together and have fun."

"It definitely builds parent loyalty," Fine adds. "They’ll come up to me and say things like, My child was so blue all day until you delivered that prize to her.’ Another parent of a kid with leukemia told me how having his artwork shown on TV made him feel so happy."

[For more information, contact:

Roni Mintz, CCLF, Coordinator, Child Life Department, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Scottish Rite Campus, 1001 Johnson Ferry Road N.E., Atlanta, GA 30342. Telephone: (404) 250-2314. E-mail: roni.mintz@choa.org.

Paula R. Fine, MS, Child Life Specialist, Host/Producer of Children’s TV, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Scottish Rite Campus, 1001 Johnson Ferry Road N.E., Atlanta, GA 30342. Telephone: (404) 256-5252, ext. 5412. E-mail: paula.fine@choa.org.]