Being a patient in the hospital can be a difficult experience and for a child or teenager, it can be even more distressing. It is an out-of-the-ordinary situation and everything the child knows as “normal” is placed on hold. This can lead to apprehension, fear, anxiety and stress, especially for children who are visiting a healthcare facility for the very first time. As many in the healthcare field are aware, remaining positive, upbeat and happy can aide tremendously in the healing process. A useful tool to help increase these emotions is play.
According to Karen Muller, Child Life Director at Children’s Medical Center in Dayton, OH, coping skills may vary from child to child so it helps a great deal to try and “normalize the hospital environment” by providing kids with activities they are accustomed to doing. Ms. Muller states, “Today’s kids are very familiar with computer and video games; it is just like TV was thirty years ago.”
During an average day for a child or teen, computers and video games are used regularly, whether it is for school work or for fun and recreation either by themselves, with friends or family members. Whenever possible, children in healthcare facilities should be given an opportunity to enjoy similar facets of their regular daily lives, such as electronic game play, to help encourage happiness and positivity, and to decrease their stress. It is important to replace fear with fun.
When six year old Killian Carpenter of Franklin, NC was admitted to the University of North Carolina Hospitals in Chapel Hill for abdominal surgery, he knew things were “not normal.” Killian’s father, Darrin, could tell that he was worried about what was going to happen to him and saw that Killian was intimidated by all the new, unwanted attention. Darrin recalls his son commenting on the large number of “very serious grown-ups wearing green shirts or blue shirts…they were everywhere!” It was definitely a frightening experience.
However, when Killian began his post surgery recovery, he discovered a way to cope with his situation through the help of Kidzpace Interactive and DMA4Families. The hospital’s playroom housed a Kidzpace Carousel game systems that features multiple electronic game stations which Killian was able to enjoy. Darrin, stated he could immediately see that playing the games was a effective and fun distraction that eased Killian’s worry and he focused less on his pain. Darrin said, “Playing the games gave Killian a little bit of home.” This is a true benefit of play.