We know that children are not tiny adults. From our equipment to the facilities to the décor, the UC Davis Pediatric Emergency Department is designed to meet the needs of children of all ages. We also know that a positive and child-friendly environment can make a huge difference in a patient’s experience; it is the first step on the road to wellness.

Things are looking up for children visiting the ER

With funds provided by Children’s Miracle Network at UC Davis, colorful decorative ceiling tiles and wall decals were recently installed in the UC Davis Children’s Hospital pediatric emergency room. The ceiling tiles and wall decals help create a child-friendly environment and provide an always accessible distraction or focal point.

Child life specialists

UC Davis Children’s Hospital has two child life specialists dedicated to the pediatric emergency room. Child life specialists provide support and age-appropriate coping strategies, while educating families, staff and physicians about the special needs of hospitalized children. They also introduce coping strategies to help reduce anxiety and enhance cooperation with the health care team. Read more about our Child Life and Creative Arts Therapy Department.

Child-friendly space

A few key aspects to improving patients’ overall well-being are to help them feel comfortable in their environment, encourage them to be active participants in their hospitalization and minimize the impact of boredom. Within a child-friendly environment, the patient may adjust more quickly and allow medical staff a ready way to engagement with them, improving quality of care.

“When kids come to the Emergency Department, they’re here because they’re hurting or sick, and most of the time, they’re also scared. They’re surrounded by strangers and unfamiliar equipment that they don’t encounter in their daily lives as children. This can create a lot of anxiety,” said Jessica Vroman, certified child life specialist. “But when they see characters they know and love, and it instantly puts them at ease, making the unfamiliar more comfortable and less frightening.”

Distraction device

Distraction plays a strong role in comforting patients. A favorite distraction technique by child life specialists is to play I-Spy or go through Where’s Waldo books with the patient while in the emergency room. This allows the patient to engage either with their environment or with a book; creating a disconnection from an unfamiliar environment and allows the patient to focus on a task. However, due to time and availability constraints, not every patient has contact with a child life specialist. The ceiling tiles allow the patient to disengage from the painful or fearful experience and redirect his thoughts on something external without the need for extra supplies in the emergency room.

“Just in the short time we’ve had the decals up, we’ve already seen the difference they make. Children often walk through our doors and immediately point at the decals, shouting excitedly, ‘Nemo! Dory!’, and their fears start to melt away.”

Creating an inviting, serene, healing environment for all patients is a top priority here at UC Davis Children’s Hospital. Transformation often starts small and creates ripples; improving the experience for the youngest lives generates a long-lasting impact.