Hospitals Set Anchor on Pirate-Themed Decoration and Progress with Toy Pedal Cars

( [email protected] ) Jan 28, 2014 07:54 PM EST

A trip to the doctors is never fun for the kids. The anxiety of not knowing whether they will be prescribed to medication or be given the needle makes the hospital one of the top ten scary places in everyone's list. But hospitals across the world are figuring out ways to make children feel at ease once they step foot in the lab. Such unconventional methods include pedal cars to transport children to the operating room and a Pirate-Themed CT scan room.

According to a news report by Today, calmer kids leave the hospital experience healthier. In that same news report, a 3-year-old child by the name of Shahaf Rozenblum was in a bad mood as he went to the hospital to get throat surgery. Minutes before he had to go to the operating room, the staff at Israel's Schneider Children's Medical Center took the child to a room in a pedal car.

Toy Petal Car and Pirates-themed Hospitals
Dror Katz / Courtesy Schneider Children's Medical Center

"He saw those small cars and wanted to go in there," Meirav Rozenblum, the boy's mother, told Today. "When it was time for the surgery the nurses came in and said it was OK to go in the car. He was so happy riding in the car he forgot everything about the surgery. He went with them and I walked behind. It was like a game for him. It was a really nice experience."

The Texas Children's Hospital in Houston also offers pedal cars or rides in a wagon to the operating room, which they believe does more than help children relax.

The pedal car "gives children a little sense of control in a place where they fell out of control," says Diane Kaulen, a child life specialist at Texas Children's.

Most children would find the CT scan room to be intimidating, especially when they have to go through a giant machine that looks like a spaceship. The fear of the unknown is probably the last thing a child would want to face, especially when he or she is fighting cancer, a heart defect, or bone fractures. Although the scan is painless and only takes less than a minute, the preparation takes more than 15 minutes and requires the patient to remain still during that time period. In an attempt to reduce anxiety in child patients, The Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh and The New York-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital decorated their CT scan rooms with a pirate theme.

"It allows children to imagine all sorts of things," Dr. Carrie Ruzal-Shapiro of New York-Presbyterian said to the New York Daily News. "So it doesn't seem like a horrible, scary chore."

Toy Petal Car and Pirates-themed Hospitals
Courtesy The Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh

The Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh also features a jungle theme for the nuclear medicine room. Of course, the hospital's method to reduce children's anxieties isn't limited to decorated rooms. The hospital also plays upbeat, calming music in those rooms and gives children scented patches that smell of pine or coconut to block out that hospital smell. 

"What we've found out is that reducing anxiety in the child improves the quality of the exam because they aren't moving, and it reduces the need for sedation," says Kathleen Kapsin, administrative director of the department of radiology at The Children's Hospital.

In 2004, NBC News also reported that video games can help reduce stress and anxiety in children before surgery.

"This is great because this offers a wonderful ability to have the child's attention immersed elsewhere," Dr. Erin Stucky, head of the American Academy of Pediatrics' committee on hospital care told NBC News.

Although it shouldn't take too much effort to alleviate child patients from their stress and fears when they go to the hospital, it doesn't hurt if every medical facility creates a less intimidating environment to that no child will feel hurt once they walk in.