Hospital reduces children’s fears by letting them drive toy cars into surgery

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

HUNTSVILLE Ala. — Hospitals can be a scary place for anyone, but especially for kids. Huntsville Hospital for Women and Children has child life specialists whose sole job is to help the children there beyond their medical needs. Making a trip to the hospital, not only bearable but even fun.

The hospital waiting room is more like a game room with interactive games projected onto the floor for kids to play with while they wait in the emergency room.

“So this is kind of one of those things that keeps their mind off everything before they have to go back,” said Haley Franks, a pediatric ER registered nurse. “Especially if they have any kind of procedures or anything they are able to kind of play out here in the lobby and have some fun while they’re waiting.”

The child life department has been in Huntsville Hospital for over 20 years. Specialists are trained in child psychology and development to know how to meet the needs of every child.

“There are some kids that are excited to be here. There are some kids that are really really scared and don’t even want to come in the door, stand on the scale, put on a bracelet,” said Michelle Barksdale, a child life specialist. “We have all developmental ages and ranges of emotions.”

Barksdale said the needs of kids are very different than adults. She said a lot of kids are concrete thinkers they need to see what the surgery room will look like, not just be told.

The pictures, toys, and games are just the start. The real fun is the ride into surgery in a toy car, complete with their own driver’s license.

“That car is a transition piece from parents who they know, where they’re safe, to people who they don’t know in scrubs,” said Barksdale.

The staff here says they choose to be in pediatrics because they love kids. They work hard every day to make kids feel better inside and out.

“It makes it easier on that transition for the parent as well as the child. Because they know the child is not scared, they’re not crying, they’re not leaving them in a fearful state,” said Amanda Rochowiak, a pre-op coordinator.


Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.