published Saturday, August 20th, 2011

Calming effect: Erlanger using iPads to explain procedures, let patients play

by Chris Carroll
Nyeeman Eshlibi, 16, and nurse May Anderson look for a game on one of Erlanger's iPads on Friday afternoon. The hospital is using iPads to distract and inform younger patients during and between procedures.
Nyeeman Eshlibi, 16, and nurse May Anderson look for a game on one of Erlanger's iPads on Friday afternoon. The hospital is using iPads to distract and inform younger patients during and between procedures.
Photo by Jake Daniels.
  • photo
    Lilly Cash, 6, smiles as she looks over the list of books available on one of Erlanger's iPads, held by Maggie Butler, on Friday. Butler reads aloud to Cash, who is paralyzed from the neck down, from the book list. The hospital is using iPads to distract and inform younger patients during and between procedures.
    Photo by Jake Daniels /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Distraction is a wonderful thing when you're little, especially if cancer, staph infections and CT scans are involved.

With that in mind, Erlanger Health System has made a night (or many nights) at the hospital a bit more bearable: Child Life Department specialists -- professionals who administer all the nonmedical help patients need -- use four donated iPads to keep toddlers and teenagers occupied as doctors go to work.

The best part? Playing Angry Birds or reading "Curious George" on the iPad's smooth, rectangular screen puts a physical barrier between the child and all sorts of icky stuff: incisions, IV punctures, the works.

"They don't see all that," said Wallis Davies, who manages Erlanger's Child Life Department. "And then the parents are less stressed because their child is less stressed."

Child Life specialist Maggie Butler illustrated her technique to a reclining Friday afternoon visitor. Bending down to eye level, she began explaining a CT scan as if she was talking to a young patient.

She scrolled through pictures of a little girl sitting with her mother in a decorated waiting room.

"That's where your mom will sit, and there's a big TV to watch," she said. "You can color and you can read a book."

The next photo shows the little girl -- who happens to be the 3-year-old daughter of an Erlanger doctor -- walking into a CT scan room.


If you'd like to donate an iPad to Children's Hospital at Erlanger, contact child life manager Wallis Davies at 778-6814.

And there it was: The giant machine that screens for cancer.

But that's not how a bright-eyed Butler set it up.

"Do you like doughnuts? I like doughnuts. Doesn't it look like a big white doughnut?" she said.

Erlanger has similar photo sequences and information programs for MRIs and surgeries, among other major procedures.

The illnesses are dire. Erlanger's youngest patients fight cancer and car-accident paralysis, not just the common cold.

Still, they light up when asked about Child Life specialists and iPads.

  • photo
    Ruth Bosshardt explains some of the favorite games and programs kids at Erlanger like to use on the facility's iPads. The hospital is using iPads to distract and inform younger patients during and between procedures.
    Photo by Jake Daniels /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Alex Ware, a 15-year-old Heritage High School student, spent Friday laid up with a staph infection. As doctors cleaned and dressed a wound on his leg, he realized he couldn't watch television since "everyone was crowded around me."

"I was freaking out, but then -- Angry Birds," he said with a grin. "And my mind was geared toward something else."

Having fun isn't distraction's only positive byproduct. In order for doctors to perform procedures, a child must be relaxed, said Dr. Darwin Koller, emergency room medical director for Children's Hospital.

"Without the iPad, we might be forced to go to a medical way of dealing with it, which would be sedation, IVs, medicines," he said. "That involves cost, more risk to the kids and more time here."

Child Life specialists said they used to lug a bag full of books and toys. They're trained to entertain, smile and explain what's happening.

Now, some of their job exists in a thin tablet.

"It definitely kind of steals the show," said Ruth Bosshardt, an emergency room child life specialist. "But I can't imagine the ER without them."

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328Kwebsite said...

PR releases like this are a great way to get the public to stop expecting professional service and start accepting website kiosks. In this case, it'd be iPad websites explaining to patients what their condition is. It'll cut down on overhead by avoiding decision-making, the hallmark of business today: profit through irresponsibility.

While I don't doubt a TV on an iPad can babysit an upset kid, it's much more likely that this is a cost-cutting measure.

Take your CBT, computer based training class, before you pay us thousands of dollars above cost for life-saving surgery. They are going to do all they can to get away from providing actual face to face service.

If I remember right, the Soviets used to love putting people through an assembly line for routine surgeries.

August 20, 2011 at 9:28 a.m.
dpall738 said...

328K: Are you kidding me? As I recall, this is the same reporter who broke open the Walden security story.

This a well-written, uplifting story, and the Walden story was a solid investigative piece. Both types of stories belong in the newspaper and should be told.

Get a grip and remove the tinfoil hat for once.

August 20, 2011 at 9:50 a.m.
jdf07 said...

328K... I don't think you quite understand how the Child Life Specialist are using the technology. In no way are they passing out ipads and saying goodbye. These professionals do an AMAZING job of informing and calming the children in the hospital. They spend countless hours explaining with dolls, toys, books, etc what procedure the child is about to go through or how his/her life is going to be different when it is done. The CLS are an invaluable part of any children's hospital. The ipads are just another tool for them to use. If you ever experience taking a loved one to Children's (which I hope you don't), I hope you will see how important the roll of the CLS is and how they use technology to meet the needs of the patients for which they care.

August 20, 2011 at 12:26 p.m.
moonbeam said...

382K. Apparently English is not your first language. Chris' article talks all through it about how the CLS is in the room with the patient explaining procedures with info on the ipad. It is too bad that you did not understand that or that you have never had a child in the hospital. The ipads were donated so they are not costing anyone money. It is sad how some people can take something that is good and look for ways to spin it into something bad. Let's all hope that you never have to find the value that these ipads give.

August 20, 2011 at 6:44 p.m.
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