Keeping Patients Connected Throughout COVID-19

Keeping Patients Connected Throughout COVID-19

Since 2018, Sophie’s Place Broadcast Studio at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford has offered a fun distraction for patients during their hospital stay. In the multiple-use space connected to the studio called Story Corner, the giant interactive wall that tracks children’s movements has become a favorite family activity. It can also transform into a projection screen, making movie nights at the hospital feel like an outing to a theater, with a red carpet and all. In the Broadcast Studio itself, children of all ages can participate in creating and hosting shows that stream through the hospital’s closed-circuit TV channel.

Part of the hospital’s Child Life and Creative Arts Department, the studio has become an important source of entertainment and community for patients. During game shows and “kids choice” programs, for example, patients can watch and participate from their rooms or come into the studio to co-host a show live on-air. “It’s been a wonderful way to encourage patients to come out of their shells, and have a space to use their voice,” says Mat Vido, studio coordinator for the Broadcast Studio.

The COVID-19 pivot

Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and many of these activities were placed off-limits in order to keep patients safe. For the same reason, the playrooms on inpatient units throughout the hospital had to close, making children even more isolated.

“Last time we were here for three weeks, and we were in isolation which made it worse because we couldn’t go outside,” says Yesenia Castillo, mother to Julian, who is receiving care at Packard Children’s. “We couldn’t walk down the hallway or do anything, and now with this covid it’s even worse too.”

The studio team quickly regrouped to figure out how to engage patients and provide social and creative outlets. “We’ve tried to be innovative and quickly adapt,” says Vido. Before the pandemic, the studio put on two shows a day on weekdays and one show a day on weekends. After the pandemic, they increased it to three a day every day, including weekends.

“We tinkered and tested ways to make our programming accessible and to keep this sense of community,” says Vido. One way they’re doing that is by bringing an iPad to a patient’s bedside that’s routed to the studio, so patients can co-host live shows from their rooms. They also broadcast interactive games where patients can play along in real time on their smartphones or the in-room iPads.

“When we were admitted this time, before any medical conversations started, the first thing Julian asked when we got to the hospital was ‘What shows are they going to do?,’” Castillo says. “We could just tune in to the tv during studio show times. It was interactive and he was able to talk to Mat and Brian or even interact with other kids. It really helped him a lot.”

A showcase for talent—and more

Patients can easily participate in live programs from their rooms by calling in or cohosting the show. For Thursday bingo night, the Child Life team passes out boards to kids who have the chance to win prizes playing themed games, like Disney bingo, medical bingo or superhero bingo. With the addition of the newest studio coordinator, Brian, the studio is able broadcast bingo in both English and Spanish every week, offering this fun game to more patients and families. “Patients get so excited for bingo, it is by far our most popular program,” says Vido. “They look forward to it all week long.”

A popular bedside activity is recording stop-motion animation videos using action figures. “The cool thing about these projects is that kids get creative freedom to create a storyline,” says Vido. “One child enacted an Avengers’ secret mission, and another child told a story about bullying using the action figures.” The studio team takes a series of photos of the action figures and then creates an iMovie on an iPad. The patient records the voiceover—often with a parent playing a character. “It looks like a full movie, and kids love it,” Vido says. And when the videos are broadcast, it helps kids feel connected to other kids.

Another popular program is the craft tutorials. Bedside kits are delivered to patient rooms and children tune in to watch the studio team with occasional special guests, such as art therapists or recreation coordinators. They show kids how to make fun crafts, like a dreamcatcher, an origami cube or slime. “Parents have told me that doing these crafts is a game-changer, and their child always looks forward to it,” says Vido. Sometimes, children with a knack for making something takes the reins and records a tutorial for other children to watch in their rooms.

Fun is a word patients use to describe what they feel when they participate in the studio’s variety show called ‘Friday Funday,’ where kids are the center of the show. The team captures videos of patients participating in the weekly dance challenge, led by a Packard Children’s child life specialist. One favorite segment of the show is ‘Weekly Dose Of Donnie,’ where one of the therapy dogs in the hospital, Donnie, visits with patients and gives them an update on her life as well as an uplifting message.

The studio is a place for not only patients and families to participate, but also multidisciplinary teams at Packard Children’s to collaborate as well. Every week the studio puts on a fun game called ‘Guess How Many Are In The Jar.’ Patients love getting their nurses, child life specialists, art therapists, social workers, psychiatrists and other hospital staff involved in the show. It offers a way for the care team to build rapport with their patients in a fun way.

Most studio activities are meant to be fun and distracting, but some are solidly based in the reality of patients’ difficult experiences. These shows feature patients in their rooms talking about their diagnosis—diabetes, heart transplant, cancer—or what it’s like for them to be hospitalized. “They can share what they’re going through, and then when kids see other kids like themselves, they see they’re not alone,” says Vido. “It’s nice to still be able to harbor a space for kids to connect with one another, even though they can’t be in the same room.”


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