Going into surgery can be dreading and stressful to anyone, especially to children. This was what drove a California hospital to help reduce the anxiety of little patients by letting them drive tiny cars before they head to the operating room.
Doctors Medical Center in Modesto, California has two little cars for their youngest surgical patients: a black Mercedes and a pink Volkswagen beetle. The hospital bought the first one while the other one was donated by one of their employees. The hospital said, “These sweet rides take our smallest patients to the operating room. The goal is to reduce anxiety and stress, and make the experience less scary for everyone involved.”
This wonderful idea came from by their pre-op nurse, Kimberly Martinez. She suggested this approach after learning from her own research that cars have a lasting effect on young children.
Krista Deans, the hospital’s spokeswoman, said, “She did some research and found the benefits of these cars having a lasting impact on young patients. Having something to keep their mind off of heading into surgery is a good thing.”
According to Martinez, “When the children find out they can go into the operating room riding in a cool little car, they light up and in most cases, their fears melt away. She also recommended this idea to help reduce the fear of the parents for their children. Martinez added, “In addition, when parents see their children put at ease, it puts them at ease as well.” Martinez said she noticed an immense and quick difference since the hospital introduced the mini cars.
Along with other employees at the hospital, she hopes that the benefits of this approach to the children and parents will become long term. “It can be traumatizing for a young patient to be peeled away from their parents as they head into surgery. This truly helps everyone involved,” Martinez stated.
Basically, the one-seated mini cars were specifically made for children, ages 2-7. To improve the children’s experience, they equipped the cars with a stereo which has various pre-loaded songs and an MP3 player. The music can make the children more relaxed, helping them forget about their fears and keep them at ease before their operation.
The children can operate the mini cars themselves or by using a remote control. The cars also teach the children about safety, having headlights, dash lights, and seat belts.
By getting behind the wheels of the mini cars the hospital is providing, small patients can now face their fears of surgery without crying or screaming. Their parents, on the one hand, can also have some peace of mind, seeing how happy their children are before the operation. Through this approach, doctors will also find it easier to encourage children and keep them calm during the surgery. Since they are still in a “happy” state, the young patients are not likely to think about the pain of having surgery, but the joy of riding and driving beautiful cars.
This unique and heartfelt effort from Doctors Medical Center can be a great inspiration to other hospitals not only in the United States but also to hospitals all over the world. With this simple yet effective approach to reducing patient’s anxiety, surgeries can now be less terrifying and distressing for children and their parents.
Watch the kids drive on their way to surgery, courtesy of CBS News.
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