7 Methods to Improve Pediatric Patient Experience

Patient experience looks and feels different for every pediatric patient and their caregivers. It’s important to be able to read and to empathize with each individual during their healthcare journey in order to provide the best patient experience. A toddler’s care varies widely from that of a teenager, so how can you improve the patient experience for such a wide range of patients and their respective caregivers? Here are some methods that can improve the pediatric patient experience, regardless of age:

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Clearly communicate during every part of the healthcare experience

As the saying goes, communication is key, especially in medical settings where pediatric patients can experience a lot of anxiety, confusion, and fear. But you’d be surprised how much lack of communication many experience in the hospital or doctor’s office. Lack of clear communication is one of the main reasons for patient and caregiver dissatisfaction as well as preventable readmissions. Ensure that staff members are providing developmentally-appropriate communication throughout the experience, particularly with younger children. Discharge information should also be relayed in a way that is understood by the caregivers, giving them space to ask for clarification and providing avenues to ask questions after discharge if necessary.

Not only is communication important, how you communicate is just as vital. Friendly body language like a smile can do wonders. Meeting the patient at eye level and addressing them by name can also make a difference. When speaking, a calm and warm tone with positive word choices will put patients more at ease. Lastly, do not interrupt the patient or their caregivers and truly listen to what they’re saying. These small changes in communication style and creating an empathetic environment can make a “night and day” difference.

Incorporate medical play, modules, and simulations

Children benefit greatly from play and that doesn’t change while in the hospital. Incorporating age-appropriate medical play prepares patients before procedures in a way that helps them understand what’s going to happen. This not only decreases anxiety for patients and their caregivers, procedures are consequently done faster and less sedation is required. For certain procedures like MRI and imaging tests, patient education simulations can be used to prepare patients. They can experience the sights and sounds of the experience beforehand, better equipping the patient for a successful procedure. Modules and hands-on training sessions from hospital staff can also be offered for caregivers on how to care for their child after discharge.

Use distraction therapy frequently

Whether it be during needle procedures or longer hospital stays, distraction therapy can be used throughout the healthcare experience. From traditional toys and sensory equipment to technology like augmented reality and virtual reality, distraction is a great way to help patients perceive less pain and anxiety during procedures as well as encourage ambulation and alleviate boredom. Find distraction tools that are appropriate and engaging for every age group, from video games, stuffed animals, education TV shows, and more.

Child life specialist using SpellBound Clinical Tools to distract a patient during a shot.

Child life specialist using SpellBound Clinical Tools to distract a patient during a shot.

Work closely as a care team

Pediatric care is a collaborative effort and a team of staff members who are united in the goal of providing excellent patient experience will do so much more successfully. Clinicians, child life specialists, nurses, psychologists, patient technologists, and other staff all must work together to provide the best emotional and clinical support for patients and their caregivers. Make sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to patient experience goals and take time each day during huddles or meetings to reinforce said goals.

Create a welcoming space

Upon walking into a doctor’s office or hospital, the physical environment is the first thing patients and caregivers experience. Needless to say, it makes a big impact on how patients experience their healthcare. A bland and sterile waiting area or patient room feel cold and uninviting in comparison to a space with lots of natural light, color, and activities for patients to engage in. Including murals, gardens, snacks and beverages, interactive games, and even space transformation are ways to create more interest in patient areas. Procedure rooms and MRI rooms can also be decorated in fun ways to create a more welcoming space for children. If nothing else, updated furniture and decor can make patients feel more comfortable.

Include family members or caregivers

Family members or caregivers know the patient best. Including them into the care of the child is essential to better understanding how the patient responds and behaves in different situations. Does the patient ask a lot of questions? Does the patient tend to open up quickly or are they more reserved? Equipped with this knowledge, the healthcare team can respond accordingly in interacting and treating the patient. This also creates a sense of unity and collaboration amongst the family and the care team. If the patient has siblings, it’s also important to include them into the patient journey by teaching them about what’s going on with their sibling and what to expect.

Encourage patients

Last but not least, encourage your patients. Praise and reward them for their bravery, their cooperative behavior, and strength. An affirming hospital or clinic environment is one that kids can associate with more positivity and less fear, leading to less hesitation or phobias with future treatment. These words mean a lot to children and to their caregivers, too.


Looking for tools to help reimagine pediatric patient experience at your hospital or clinic? Contact us for demos.

Rachel MartindaleComment