Methodist Healthcare - May 14, 2020
by Morgan Downing-Shannon

Mid-March, as the coronavirus pandemic was ramping up across the globe, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began encouraging social distancing. The term was unheard of for many and the practice was foreign. Human interaction is a critically important contributor for good health. It is especially vital in a children’s hospital.

Thankfully, Methodist Children’s Hospital’s established virtual technology program allowed for a smooth transition once social distancing guidelines were put in place.

Prior to social distancing, it was common practice to place certain pediatric patients on isolation precautions. Traditionally, isolation patients must stay inside their room during their hospital stay to protect the patient, his or her family, visitors and hospital workers from the spread of certain germs.

“Oftentimes, a hospital stay can be isolating for a child who is unable to participate in activities with other patients or their healthy peers,” said Caitlin Pearce, Certified Child Life Specialist.

Methodist Children’s Hospital launched the virtual technology program, hiring south Texas’s first full-time virtual gaming technician in 2018. The program was a game changer when it came to helping those children heal while under isolation precautions.

The program allows every patient in the hospital access to an interactive online hub. Throughout the year, the hospital broadcasts group activities and performances via live stream directly to the rooms of patients who are unable to participate in-person.

During the coronavirus pandemic, patients were able to continue to participate in virtual games like Bingo. On Easter Sunday, they played along during a virtual Easter egg hunt.

“Being able to continue activities virtually is helping us restore a sense of normalcy to our patients and their loved ones,” Pearce said. “We know these experiences create a positive healing environment and reduce anxiety as well.”

"What’s been encouraging is to see kids not wanting to leave the hospital because they have the chance to participate in live stream events, art therapy and other activities that we host in an effort to make their stay a positive one.”

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