Pediatric program aims to allay youngsters' fears about hospitals

December 29, 1992|By Deidre Nerreau McCabe | Deidre Nerreau McCabe,Staff Writer

Ask most 3- and 4-year-olds what they think about going to the hospital and they are likely to say, "It's scary," or "It hurts."

But youngsters throughout the county are learning, with the help of North Arundel Hospital's Pediatric Play Program, that the hospital is not as frightening as they may think.

"We try to reduce their fears and stress about hospitals and hospital procedures," said Dianna Drasher, who helped create the program 10 years ago.

"At one point in just about every child's life, they're going to see the inside of an emergency room," said Ms. Drasher, a nurse in the Post Anesthesia Care Unit. "We try to show them that not everything done at the hospital is scary or hurts."

During the half-hour program, Ms. Drasher or one of two other nurses explains hospital procedures and equipment in a way that children can understand.

For example, they use a doll wearing a cast to explain how a broken bone is set and the cast applied, or a teddy bear in a doctor's outfit to explain why doctors wear surgical garb.

"We take their blood pressure and temperature and show them how an IV [intravenous] would be set up," she said. But the nurses are careful never to show the youngsters a needle, she added. "They're upset enough when we just talk about needles, so we don't push it."

Ms. Drasher said the hospital offers the program to children from age 2 or 3 to about 10, with the presentation geared to the specific age group. Groups range in size from just a few children to a couple of hundred. The nurses have offered the program at the hospital and at elementary schools, churches, preschools, day-care centers and other locations.

With larger groups, the program is primarily a demonstration with question-and-answer periods. But with smaller groups, the nurses can do more "hands-on" activities, allowing children to play with stethoscopes and try on pediatric hospital gowns.

The whole idea is to increase familiarity with hospitals in the hope of decreasing children's anxieties, Ms. Drasher said. Presenters try to dispel misconceptions and give youngsters a better idea of what goes on inside a hospital.

"They're just amazed by the whole thing," she said. "And they want to tell their stories, about the time they got stiches or someone in their family went to the hospital."

Groups can arrange to have the program presented for free through the hospital's Speakers Bureau. The hospital offers speakers on several topics, including: elder care, first aid, health-care careers, nutrition, various cancers, sports medicine

and stress management. To schedule a speaker, call 787-4367.

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