No one likes to spend time in the hospital, but it can be especially unsettling for children. Whether a child has a chronic illness that requires multiple hospital visits or just gets anxious about a routine blood draw, a pediatric care coordinator provides a sense of calm. “Coming to the hospital—even if it’s for a minor reason—can be scary,” says Catherine Wilkins, a board-certified pediatric nurse and the pediatric care coordinator at Pullman Regional Hospital. “We know through research that using distraction and other techniques can reduce the trauma of those experiences. Implementing those techniques hospital-wide has been a huge priority for me in this role.”
Wilkins provides care in both a clinical role, administering direct medical care, as well as serving as a resource and support person for parents should they have questions. She regularly communicates with local family practice providers and pediatricians to coordinate care as well, and has had the opportunity to work with Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital in Spokane.
“I like to be a resource to the family, whether it’s simply answering a question or helping navigate a confusing process for outpatient procedures, or even a lab draw,” explains Wilkins. “I can even assist just by actively caring for their child while they are here.”
The Art of Distraction
Over the course of Wilkins’ career, she’s witnessed a shift in attitude from the medical community surrounding the use of distraction. “Now, it is really being recognized because of the research and how valuable a tool it is. It’s so easy and fun, and it makes such a huge difference in the overall outcome in the kids’ experiences,” she notes.
Techniques of distraction involve watching movies or shows on an iPad, singing, looking at books, blowing bubbles, or playing with interactive toys. “The most recent addition to our distraction toolkit is the use of virtual reality, which we are really excited to have on board,” adds Wilkins.
The hospital also utilizes comfort positioning, such as hugging or other ways to secure the child without them feeling like they are being restrained.
Smiles, Not Tears
The pediatric care coordination service is available to any parent who desires support in their child’s care.
“My favorite part of implementing this approach to care has been watching these kids and families leaving with smiles and high fives instead of tears. It just always feels like a huge win for everyone, every time,” shares Wilkins. “I’m pretty lucky. It’s the best job in the world.”