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Gunnison Valley Health Adds Pediatric Distraction Toolkit to Improve Children's Patient Experience

Medical procedures can be daunting and for children in particular the experience can be frightening. To support Gunnison Valley Health’s youngest hospital patients, the nursing staff have created a pediatric distraction toolkit. The toolkit is a combination of technology, practices, equipment and toys all designed to make medical procedures easier and give the child something to focus on during their time in the hospital.

Leah Swasey, RN said the toolkit is something she has seen used successfully at other hospitals.

“For children being treated in our emergency room or patient care unit, the noise, equipment and procedures can be incredibly scary and lead to trauma,” Swasey said. “If we can find ways to mitigate that trauma, it not only improves the immediate health care the child is receiving it may lead to better long-term health.”

The toolkit includes distraction items such as virtual reality goggles that allow the child to visit magical places – like a world of Legos and outer space; iPads loaded with games; and an array of toys, books and puzzles. The nursing staff can mix and match these items to best support each unique situation and pair them with practices, such as specific ways a parent can hold their child to minimize fear.

Another component of the toolkit was the purchase of a needle-free injection system to make procedures such as placing an IV virtually painless and less traumatic. The system, called J-Tip, uses CO2 to administer a numbing agent prior to the procedure.

“The toolkit expands what we have at our disposal to improve the experience for each child who comes through our doors,” Swasey said. “For example, when you draw blood or place an IV and can have a parent holding a child to minimize fear, use the J-Tip to numb the area and distract the child with virtual reality goggles; often we can complete the procedure without them ever noticing the needle.”

The toolkit was made possible with support from the Gunnison Valley Health Foundation, which purchased the virtual reality goggles, and the Starlight Children’s Foundation, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to entertain, distract and inspire hospitalized kids. Gunnison Valley Health has been a partner of the Starlight Children’s Foundation and benefited from its programs for years and the pediatric distraction toolkit project fit perfectly into that relationship.

“We reached out to the Starlight Foundation and explained what we were trying to accomplish,” said Sherilyn Skokan, Gunnison Valley Health’s Director of Patient Care Services. “They not only provided us with the necessary supplies to create our toolkit, they gave us a way to ensure that the project is sustainable for the future.”

This project is another example of the culture of innovation at Gunnison Valley Health, a critical component to the health system’s strategic plan.

“It is a huge reward for the community and for the clinical staff at Gunnison Valley Health that each person is empowered to bring their ideas forward and supported to bring them to life,” said Gunnison Valley Health’s Chief Nursing Officer Andy Bertapelle. “We have a nursing staff who bring a diverse range of experience and ideas that will only continue to make our services better and our health system stronger.”