Over the past 8 years or so we have had our fair share of hospital visits between my mom’s cancer, Jordan’s multiple visits, and welcoming new members into our family – not to mention my experience as an occupational therapist.
We’ve seen and experienced many hospitals in the area. We often take for granted the amazing healthcare systems that surround us. Until tonight we didn’t realize what goes into the planning of creating a place that is patient friendly and effective in their healthcare.
Randy and I were honored to join a group of parents in the planning process of building the new Akron Children’s Hospital medical tower. We found it to match up with the values to treat all patients like they were your own.
As parents, we were given an opportunity to give our point of view on what matters to us. What we like about the existing buildings, how we feel when we enter, what we would do differently, and what could be done to give a feeling of hope.
It was great to be able to bounce ideas around. We tried to envision an environment that would create a feeling of caring, and that alleviated as much stress to allow you to focus on the children being cared for in a nationally recognized facility.
The parents involved in this town hall meeting ranged from “frequent fliers” (those families who visit frequently), past parents, NICU parents, parents with multiple children receiving care, and members of the Akron Children’s Foundation.
The most popular ideas focused on creating an environment that involves warmth, creativity, informative and warm staff members, natural lighting, efficiency for patients receiving care from a variety of specialists, wheel chair accessibility, and the need for areas on the floors where families can relax in a monitor-free environment similar to the Reinberger Family Center.
Reflecting back on the ideas, I think of all the senses. If you close your eyes, what do you want to hear? Water, laughter, music? If you plug your ears, what do you want to see? Bright colors, smiles, pictures of healthcare providers with their patients, children’s art work? How about smell? Sterile, flowery, fruity?
We really didn’t talk about touch, but wouldn’t it be great to have areas for a type of tactile input. Maybe even an indoor playground. I truly think comfort is communication as well. Children who can’t read or for those of us who don’t look for signs to read, the follow the yellow brick road method is helpful.
The team also invited a hand-full of children to bring their creative juices into the process. They met with some child life specialists and an architect to give their view of how they feel about hospitals and what they would like to see in the future. They also created collages to show their ideas.
What better way to capture a place where the child feels comfortable and at ease? I really liked the idea of the flowers for the floors, the color purple for a sign of hope, and dinosaurs. I’m not sure the hissing sound of snakes is something that makes me feel at ease, but who knows, it may work for those who are reptile lovers.
We’ll see the ideas that are used. It’s all a process and we felt honored to be able to give back in a manner other than financially. We are so grateful for Akron Children’s and the treatment and hope they have given to our family and the families we’ve been honored to interact with.
Read more about Megs’ and Randy’s journey of raising a child with spina bifida through her blog, Labor of Love.