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3/15/11news article

technology helps children cope with medical procedures

With children’s technology continuously evolving from flip phones to iPads or stuffed animals to four-dimensional virtual playrooms, Dayton Children’s is dedicated to staying up to date on the newest tools for patients and their families.

The child life department at Dayton Children’s has recently acquired two new pieces of equipment to ensure top-notch care for their patients. Apple’s iPad is used to help visually explain medical procedures to patients and families as well as offer entertainment to ease pre-surgery nerves. The second device is the Sensory Rover Distraction Unit, which diverts the patient’s attention from medical worries to a hands-on light show that makes hospital rooms feel more like amusement parks.

Both of these additions to Dayton Children’s technologies are meant to calm children and parents’ medical fears. They are mainly used in medical imaging for a procedure called a Voiding Cystourethrogram (VCUG), a test using x-rays and contrast liquid to study the bladder. Often parents are especially worried because medical terminology can seem overwhelming and they’re uncertain on what their child will go through in surgery. With the iPad, child life specialists are able to step-by-step virtually guide parents through the medical process.

“The iPad is great because not only can it be used for distraction but is very helpful in educating parents and patients about what will happen during the procedure.” says Kristy Rowe, child’s life specialist at Dayton Children’s. “I will verbally explain the procedure but sometimes what the parents and patients need is a visual so I use an app on the iPad that has a picture of the kidneys, ureters, and bladder. This app allows me to show them what the organs look like and then has the capability for me to draw on the screen to show them the process of how things normally look when the bladder empties.”

But the iPad does more than just inform. With just one small gadget, patients are able to play games, watch TV shows or movies, listen to music and read books. Additionally, teenage patients benefit too by being able to check their social media sites to stay in touch with friends or play games, including the well-known Angry Birds, while at Dayton Children’s. These applications make patients more nervous about passing onto the next level of a game than an upcoming surgery.

“The iPad is very useful in this situation because the patient is engaged in an activity with the iPad which draws their attention and focus away from the staff setting up for the procedure,” says Rowe. “Also, it’s so much easier than carrying around a tool box full of charts, pictures, CDs or books.”

While the iPad offers a variety pack of traditional movie, television and video game entertainment, the Sensory Rover Distraction Unit takes kids from the hospital bed to a virtual funhouse unlike anything they’ve seen before.  It has a bubble tube with plastic fish that swim up and down, long fiber optic strands that are flexible and change colors, mirrors to reflect the light and colors, a projector that projects a circular lava lamp type image onto the wall or ceiling and a stereo to play music. 

The Sensory Rover Distraction Unit helps take children’s minds off of their medical issues as they turn awestruck by playing with all of the lights. When four-year-old Emily Green had to get a VCUG X-ray at Dayton Children’s, she was calmed by watching and playing with the lights.

“She enjoyed the lights,” says mother Jessica Charles. “It was very helpful and made her feel more comfortable.” 

The child life team at Dayton Children’s takes pride in their use of these new, cutting-edge technologies. They’re able to use these machines to adapt to the cognitive level of each individual child to make sure that each patient at Dayton Children’s gets the best care—and has the most fun—as possible.

Photos available upon request.

March is child life month

The child life department strives to meet the emotional and psychosocial needs of hospitalized children by providing therapeutic play activities to help ease the stresses of hospitalization. Through play activities, children are encouraged to communicate their feelings of fear, frustration and anger in a nonthreatening playroom setting. Dayton Children's has play areas that have been designed and equipped to provide opportunities for physical, emotional, social and intellectual skills development.

For more information, contact: 
Marketing Communications Department 
Phone: 937-641-3666