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Adventure-Theme Radiology Rooms Calm Kids

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The colorful murals and playful theming in the radiology rooms at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC have a purpose besides just looking cheery. They save the hospital money.

Nine rooms have an Adventure Series theme. Visiting an MRI room means taking a trip to Outer Space. A nuclear medicine room has a jungle look, and a CT room is Pirate Island, where patients—and sometimes the hospital staff—wear pirate hats.

The radiation therapy room is called Adventure Beach. An oxygen tank resembles a scuba tank and the linear accelerator is decorated as a sand castle.

Sure, it’s a little silly, but kids love it. And when kids relax, they don’t have to be sedated as often to get through their scans or therapy.

Giving each room a theme—Coral City, Cozy Camp, etc.—costs $35,000 to $45,000, said Kathleen Kapsin, administrative director for the radiology department. But it pays off financially “through the sedation reduction and increased efficiencies with work flow,” she told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for a story published Monday.

The distraction therapy idea started before the hospital moved into its current building in 2009. The radiology staff discovered that such touches as a mural, interactive toys, and patient rewards reduced the number of young patients who needed sedating. So Children’s teamed with GE Healthcare and the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum in Milwaukee to build the Adventure Series theme into the new building’s radiology rooms.

The rooms feature music composed by a former musical therapist, plus DVD players and even aromatherapy. Cozy Camp, for example, has a woodsy smell. So, according to Kapsin:

Instead of going to CT scans, the patient was going to Cozy Camp. If we can change their anxiety, a child wants to come here.

According to the hospital, in fiscal year 2009 it saw 28,497 patients in radiology and sedated 19.6 percent of them. In fiscal year 2011, it saw 47,309 patients and had to sedate only 14 percent.

The hospital’s Web site has more about the Adventure Series, including a video.

Children’s hopes to add theming to the fluoroscopy and ultrasound rooms in the next fiscal year.

“Children like it in our department,” said Herbert Klein, MD, a radiologist who specializes in nuclear medicine. “We get high marks from our patients.”

Related seminar: Pediatric Radiology—Clinical and Radiology Perspectives


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