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Change of Scenery

Meira Feinman

Nowadays, most children’s hospitals aim to be fun, friendly places. They didn’t always look this entertaining — far from it. Hospitals used to be dreary places, with stark, whitewashed walls, and a silent, hushed atmosphere. But since the 1920s, people have been studying how a happier environment can improve a child’s stay in the hospital. Let’s take a look at what they’ve come up with!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

At Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA, there are big windows so that the rooms are bright and airy and children can see what’s going on outside. There are also lots of cabinets in the wards, where children can store favorite items from home. The common room is round like a globe, with oceans and countries painted on the walls and stars twinkling from the ceiling. “We want children from anywhere in the world to come here and feel special. Our children are our stars, and we’ll do our best to help them get better,” says Hilary Gan, child life specialist.  

Many children’s hospitals now have playrooms filled with toys, games, and art supplies. Children who are sick can feel scared and alone. But in these rooms they get to play together and make friends. At Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA, the doctors and nurses can come into the playroom, but first they have to take off their official white coats. No medical procedures are allowed in this room; it’s a place to take a break!

Hospitals also have Teen Lounges, which have board games and computers, as well as puzzles and books that older kids can enjoy. Sometimes children in the hospital may not be able to move their legs or they have to take the medicines according to the doctor’s instructions. So choosing an activity in these rooms is a special treat. The Teen Lounge at CHLA is painted orange and purple — a choice made by the teenagers in the hospital together with Susan Gorry, child life specialist. “No other room in the hospital has a combination of these two colors,” says Ms. Gorry. “So this room looks really different, and coming in here feels like an escape from the rest of the hospital.”


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