Transporting Children During a Hospital Stay
By: Mark Crowder, Crothall Resident Regional Director of Operations, Patient Transportation and Chris Byrd-Roberts, Crothall Resident Regional Director of Operations
Children arrive daily at Arkansas Children’s Hospital to receive medical treatment for a wide range of diseases, from cancer to a broken foot. On an average day, we transport 50-60 children each day throughout the hospital to their medical appointments. This enables members of our Patient Transportation team to get to know these children and their families quite well, making us an important part of the healing process.
Of course, working to heal children is different. We know that entering and staying in the hospital for a prolonged period can be difficult for anyone, but it can be especially tough for a child.
Patient transport staffers are among the first people a child meets once they enter a hospital. To help them settle in, our immediate job is to help them understand that they are safe and we are here to help them.
Upon greeting the child and their family, we work to overcome the perception that we are strangers only there to push a wheelchair. We offer them a friendly greeting and let them know they can count on us to help them at any time. We will likely transport them throughout the hospital several times during their stay, so we want them to know they will arrive safely to all of their tests and appointments.
Here’s an example of how we do that.
After recently taking a child back to their room, one of our transporters noticed the child smelling delicious, freshly-baked cookies in our Riverbend café. After checking the patient’s diet restrictions, the transporter worked with the director and Morrison Healthcare’s kitchen staff to deliver cookies to the child’s room. It was a wonderful gesture that wouldn’t have happened without the transporter’s attentiveness to the patient.
One of the advantages we provide is the experience and knowledge of each of our associates. The 18 associates on our Patient Transportation staff have an average of 12 years of experience – so each has worked with thousands of children during their time here.
This level of experience means our team innately understands just about any situation a child faces and will adjust how to approach a child to offer help. Within the same hour, we may move a premature infant, and a distraught family member to the operating room then help discharge a 17-year-old boy from a surgical unit who just broke their leg while skateboarding. Our associates are trained to provide each child with a level of comfort to get them to their destination.
What Makes Children Different?
Is there a difference between transporting a toddler and a teenager compared to an adult? You bet.
Small children may not be able to voice their pain or medical concerns. For example, asking a two-year-old child where they feel pain or if there is anything they need can be difficult when they are not able to say the right words or express their thoughts coherently.
To handle these situations, our staff is trained to be aware of specific situations that can be a challenge.
For example, when discharging a toddler from the hospital, a transporter may need to sit with the patient while their parent brings the car up to the lobby doors. Our staff is trained to engage and comfort the patient, who may be uneasy and anxious to get back with their parent.
Is It Possible to Make Transporting a Child Fun?
Pauladacy, our PT associate with Coleman.
Giving a child a special experience during their stay can help break the tension around health issues and provide the family an experience they will remember for a long time. To do so, we offer special modes of transport to make a child’s visit more fun.
For example, once they’ve checked in to the hospital, Little Red Wagons are available to help transport children that are small enough to fit in the wagon. This experience helps get their hospital stay off on the right foot.
Once they are settled in, there are more fun opportunities. Depending on their medical diagnosis, children weighing less than 70 pounds can drive themselves to medical appointments in Elsa’s Sled, a battery-operated vehicle, or a remote-controlled Giant Hot Wheels with a sound system.
And where do they go? They can also drive the vehicles to Camp Wannaplay, an indoor facility with a wide variety of children’s games and activities. In these situations, our transporters supervise the child and have control of the vehicle, playing the role of back-up operators and way finders.
What Makes the Job Rewarding?
We realize that the doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel face difficult challenges helping many of the children that come to the Arkansas Children’s Hospital. But we also believe we play an important role as part of the healthcare team here.
By forming friendships with the children and their families and getting them to and from their appointments daily, we can make their days better. We call our time with each patient the Golden 15 Minutes. It’s our opportunity to create the best patient experience possible, and it is always rewarding for our associates.
The understanding that we are all here to help these kids get healthier is a powerful motivator for all of us. Much like the medical staff, watching each child make progress in their healthcare journey gives all of us meaning and makes us proud to be part of the healthcare team.