Making the patient experience a positive one for children and parents

Local charities and dedicated staff have helped to transform the Royal Cornwall Hospital’s Paediatric Operating Theatres into a place of wonder and imagination.
The second phase of a large refurbishment project is coming to an end at the Royal Cornwall Hospitals. Based in the Paediatric Operating Theatres, the new project aims to create an environment and experience that will alleviate the potential anxieties and concerns of children about to undergo anaesthesia and surgery, as well as encouraging a more imaginative and interactive journey for the patient and their family.

Christian Valenzuela, staff nurse and the Team Lead for Paediatric Operating Theatres at Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust, was one of the driving forces behind the refurbishment, working closely with play specialists and local charities to implement a shared vision.

“Overall, the project was divided into two phases”, Christian explains. “The first phase saw the creation underwater-themed wall art installed inside the anaesthetic room. The second saw the purchase of an electric ride-on toy car that tells us about the child’s journey to theatres. The use of the car is fully risk assessed for each patient and discussed with the whole team before use.”

Christian continues: “The child’s journey begins in the reception area of Tower Theatres, where the electric ride-on toy car is parked up and waiting to be driven away. Then the parent will control the ride-on toy car, driving up to the Paediatric Waiting Area. We are also giving out parking tickets, driving license and stickers for the child. In addition, road signs, traffic signs and beach-themed wall art are installed within the department to complete the experience and to help distract our younger patients.”

Colourful wall-art has also been installed in the Paediatric waiting area, where the Cornish pirate will welcome the child to the department. The team then assist the patient in boarding a boat for an underwater adventure, where dolphins, fishes and other sea animals are waiting inside the anaesthetic room.

Debbie Charles was one of the play specialists involved with the project from its inception. She explains: “It has been a great opportunity to be involved in this project, collaborating across departments to make our hospital experience memorable and tailored to the needs of children and teenagers. We hope we’ve created something that’s fun and interactive and helps to make the experience of visiting the hospital that little bit less frightening or intimidating for children and their parents.”

These collaborative efforts were made possible by charity donations from the RCHT Charity’s General and Child Health funds, and the Organ Donation Fund. “During the planning and designing phase, two charities also approached the hospital with a generous donation”, Debbie continues. “Matt Atkins Memorial Fund donated the electric car, which we incorporated into our plan so that children could drive to theatres. Finns Army donated a mini iPad, which we plan to play relaxing music on, or use as a distraction when children enter the theatre.”

“I’d like to offer a special thanks to Lilly Durell for helping me conceptualise and design the phase two wall arts”, Christian concludes. “The assistance and generosity of everyone involved in the project has been incredibly humbling. Our team strongly believes that patient experience and staff experience is one + all, and we can’t wait to see the smiles this new refurbishment will bring to the faces of the children and parents alike.”

doors to the Paediatric Operating Theatres beautifully painted with an underwater-themed mural

Added on 21 January 2021, in News - Patient Experience