It is undeniable that stuffed animals in the hospital can provide sick or injured children with help during dark times, comfort in an unfamiliar place, and a distraction from the fears that plague them. This is one of the reasons why Sacred Heart Medical Center gives a stuffed toy to children every time they are admitted or come in for surgery.
Children enter the pediatric unit for various reasons: respiratory diseases, fractures, surgery. They often go home the same day, but sometimes stay up to two weeks.
A stuffed animal really has an impact on healing from the beginning. It's calming, brings something familiar, and immediately reduces stress and fear in the patient room.
Parents often feel helpless in the face of pediatric illnesses or injuries. Although medical outcomes are in the hands of doctors, there is much we can do to help younger patients. The gift of just one new stuffed animal, for example, can help make a child's hospital stay brighter and less scary.
Can a stuffed animal really make a difference? Many studies have shown that it can. They help healthcare workers gain the trust of young patients, reduce the physical symptoms of anxiety, and can even speed up the healing process . Here's what researchers have found:
Going to the hospital can be a scary situation, especially for young children who don't fully understand why they need to stay in the hospital. Pediatric patients sometimes face overwhelming fears: pain and death, the unknown, separation from parents, unfamiliar hospital staff, and loss of power, control, and comfort.
For children needing surgery, researchers have found that the comfort of a preoperative stuffed animal significantly reduces anxiety by giving them the opportunity to freely express their feelings.
Managing children's anxiety leads to the best psychological and physiological response to surgery and better management of their health. Stuffed animals, by creating a positive atmosphere in children, allow them to cope with hospital conditions.
The effects are not only psychological. It has also been shown to reduce the physical symptoms of anxiety.
Going through a medical procedure is an adventure into the unknown, even for adults. For children, it is even more intimidating. When children play in the hospital, they often have to face the questions that await them.
Playing with a stuffed animal helps children become familiar with the previously unfamiliar hospital environment and the necessary medical procedures. Teddy bears often accompany children to the hospital and stuffed animals are in the arms of young children whenever there is a blood test or, for example, when they are vaccinated.
Stuffed animals can also change the way pediatric patients perceive healthcare workers, turning them from frightened strangers into caregivers.
Nurses often use stuffed animals as a health care strategy for hospitalized children, especially to prepare those who are about to undergo surgery or other painful or unpleasant procedures. For example, teddy bears or dolls can be used as models to show the child how a procedure, such as placing a peripheral venous catheter, will be performed.
When a child in the hospital is able to play, it is a good sign. It often heralds the success of treatment or the return to health.
Stuffed animals can also become a tool to help children in their healing process . Stuffed animals, dolls, figures, board games, movies and video games give caregivers a wonderful motivational tool to help pediatric patients reach their next level of recovery. They also provide a fun and distraction during the hospital stay, especially during the time when they are well enough to want to do something fun, but not well enough to actually do it.
When children play, they can work through their feelings about being in the hospital, which helps reduce the intensity of negative feelings about their experiences. This allows healthcare workers to cultivate the positive state of mind that young patients need to heal.
The value that children place on toys cannot be overstated. A doll or stuffed animal can become your best friend. A game or movie can provide a much-needed distraction from boredom and fear.
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