Surgery is a scary thing for anyone to face. But for a child, it can be one of the most frightening experiences they've ever had.
Shriners Hospital for Children in Chicago has discovered a way to help reduce the fear and anxiety kids experience when facing tough medical procedures: an app for Apple's iPad tablet computer.
Kia Ferrer, child life specialist at Shriners, developed a program that virtually walks patients through their treatment.
"With Keynote, an iPad application similar to PowerPoint, children are able to slide through pictures of what will take place from admission to discharge," she says. "With this device I can explain surgery preparation through pictures and age-appropriate language."
Shriners-Chicago specializes in orthopedics, spinal cord injury and cleft lip and palate care. The hospital acquired two iPads last November, and buzz about the program spread quickly.
"It's terrific," Shriners spokeswoman Cathleen Himes says. "They have different exercises they go through with them about pain and what they're going to see. It's like, 'First you're going to go into this room and then you're going to meet this lady.' It eases the tension and it works."
The program is geared toward children 3 and up.
Prior to using the iPad, Ferrer used books with pictures of different rooms at the hospital.
"The iPad has revolutionized the way I teach because it's more of an interactive tool," Ferrer says. "Most children love technology so they're very attracted to this new and neat little computer that shows them the steps of their hospital experience."
Shriners-Chicago leads the way in using state-of-the-art technology for its treatment and rehabilitation care. In addition to the iPad program, the hospital also houses the Pediatric Lokomat and a new Motion Analysis Lab.
The Lokomat is a robotic treadmill machine that helps patients with neurological impairments improve their gait and independence by allowing for more range of motion than other rehabilitation devices.
The Motion Analysis Lab is an 1,800-square-foot laboratory with a 40-by-24 foot walkway that specializes in the systematic measurement of motion and forces during walking. Fourteen infrared cameras surround the walkway to provide a 3-D assessment that surgeons, engineers and therapists use to refine a patient's diagnosis and treatment.
Ferrer hopes to incorporate even more technology in the future.
"We have a room for children that has game consoles and a widescreen TV and we would love to update it with Apple computers that have web cameras for video chat," she says.
She says the hospital attracts patients from all over the world who could keep in touch with their families from home, which would provide emotional support during their stay at Shriners.
Jaclyn Gray writes for the Medill News Service.