Patients in the MGHfC Pediatric Imaging waiting area can now immerse themselves in classic, colorful children’s books as they prepare for their radiologic exams. On April 4, 7-year-old Zachary Sheehan delivered dozens of the storybooks to child life specialist Katie Weagle to distribute in the waiting area.
The idea was sparked when told Weagle told Zachary’s mother, Alicia Sheehan, RN, of the Interventional Radiology Department, that the Imaging waiting room needed a refresh and new distractions for young patients. “Facing a new hospital experience can cause anyone to feel anxious. For kids, we know those feelings can be more powerful,” says Weagle. “Teaching them about the intervention is a key aspect to reduce that stress. But using distraction techniques like reading is another tool in a child life specialist’s toolbox.”
“A lot of our patients arrive to our suite overwhelmed and anxious. Offering the books is a simple way to create a more inviting and safer feeling atmosphere. I often see children find a book then snuggle up to their parents and read,” says Weagle. “They excitedly share their pick with the technologist who will be imaging them. It’s a way for the patients to connect with staff who are supporting them through what can be a tough exam.”
So, Zachary asked friends and family to gift him books for the department in lieu of presents for his birthday this year. He and his mother originally planned for a no-presents party, but Zachary decided to use his special day to help kids like himself. “My mom told me the kids who come to the hospital are nervous and they don’t have anything to do while they are in the waiting room. The books give help them forget they feel nervous,” says Zachary.
“He was so excited on donation day, but he was even more excited when we walked past the waiting room and saw a child reading one of the donated books,” says Sheehan. “As we pulled out of the parking garage, Zach told us he was feeling so happy that he did it!"
Each pediatric patient is now invited to take a book home in hopes they remember their positive hospital experience.