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Parents know how distracting electronics, like an iPad®, can be for children. In fact, it can be downright frustrating if you're trying to pry one away from them. Cook Children's is taking advantage of that and now has a beneficial use for them – to calm anxious patients prior to surgery.
Before iPads, a sedative called Versed was often the only choice for relieving anxiety. But, like with any drug, some patients can experience adverse side effects. For these patients, we need a safer alternative.
Cook Children's nurses participated in a research study, funded by West Coast University, which helped prove iPads can be an effective tool in eliminating stress before surgery.
Identifying patients who can benefit from iPad distraction, instead of Versed, is a collaborative effort between our anesthesiologists, nurses and Child Life specialists. After receiving a referral from an anesthesiologist or nurse, a Child Life specialist visits the patient to assess their demeanor.
Fully dressed in surgical scrubs and cap, the Child Life specialist determines if the patient is tearful or might have difficulty separating from the parents. The specialist uses developmentally appropriate tools to walk the patient through the surgery plan. If the patient appears calm and interacts positively, the specialist will recommend the iPad, in place of Versed. The patient can then play on the iPad until the anesthesia takes effect.
The study also showed that patients who use the iPad experienced less post-operative delirium and spent less time in recovery.
"I loved working on this study and being able to see, first-hand, the effects it has had on our patients and families," said Cook Children's Dodson Specialty Clinics Service Coordinator Rebecca Severnak, RN. "It's frustrating, as a nurse and mother, to see parents upset when they can't calm their child due to the effects of medication. Distraction, in place of medication, is a great option for our families."
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