Taking care of kids in the emergency room can be considerably more challenging than dealing with adults. Kids get frightened, often act irrationally, and can throw a tantrum at the exact moment when cooperation is necessary. Distraction has been key to managing kids in hospitals, traditionally involving toys, games, and someone trying to act like a clown.
Child life specialists at University of Chicago Hospitals have been testing iPads as a more consistent solution to getting kids to focus on something other than themselves. Unsurprisingly, having seen dozens of kids completely immersed in games on iPad, the technique works and a trip to the hospital makes life easier on parents, clinicians, and certainly the kids themselves.
The child life specialists focus on children’s psychological and developmental needs in order to help them feel more comfortable during their hospital stay. They’ve been experimenting with using iPads throughout the hospital, taking advantage of its versatility beyond basic entertainment and web browsing. For instance, they use video chat to help families with children in the hospital communicate with relatives, and so new mothers can watch their babies in the neonatal intensive care unit. They also use educational games and videos to help children and their parents understand diseases or what’s happening while they’re in the hospital. Cress said some older kids even use them to take pictures of themselves getting stitches so they can show all their friends.
McQueen [Alisa McQueen, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics and director of the pediatric emergency medicine fellowship program] said that besides lowering the stress levels in the emergency room, the iPads also help with the workload. Sedation requires extra nurses and physicians who could be treating other patients, and restraining an unruly child might mean two or three more people in the room. But if a child life specialist can distract a kid with a game of Angry Birds, those people can go do something else.
More from The University of Chicago: iPads in the ER: Using Gadgets to Make a Hospital Trip Less Scary…