When Bridget Richard, RN, first saw the new playroom at Northshore Regional Medical Center, where she is director of pediatric services, only one response would do.
“It blew me away,” she said.
The playroom features a DVD player and dozens of family-oriented movies, along with toys ranging from building blocks to fire trucks, dolls, and games. The room’s highlight is a floor-to-ceiling mural, painted by art students from Northshore High School. Featuring animals, pelicans, rainbows and more, the mural was taken on as a class project by the students at the beginning of the school term in August.
That was a first, according to NHS art teacher Nelle Landry.
“It’s one thing to design and paint a mural on our campus, but planning, designing and executing a mural for the hospital was a unique experience,” said Landry. “My students got the feeling of creating a big project for a client.”
For inspiration, Landry turned to the works of Walter Anderson, a New Orleans-born painter and sculptor who later settled in Ocean Springs, Miss. Anderson was known for his murals, with a whimsical approach to nature, and the students felt it would be appropriate subject matter for a children’s playroom.
There were about 30 students from Landry’s Art III and Art IV classes involved in the project. Each one created an individual composition, which were then incorporated into a mural proposal that would cover all four walls. Landry took the best of those proposals and presented them to the hospital.
By November, the students were ready to start painting. Once it was sketched onto the walls, it only took another day to complete. The students were graded at every step along the way, and Landry said they embraced the project with enthusiasm.
“They were so touched by the opportunity to do something for the kids at the hospital, and the hospital staff couldn’t have been better in making this a positive experience for them,” she said.
Once the mural was completed, Landry took her class on a field trip to Ocean Springs to visit the Walter Anderson Museum of Art, where they could get a first-hand look at the artist’s work.
This the first time the hospital has had a room dedicated solely to play for pediatric patients. Located on the fourth floor, the room represents a new direction in pediatric services, which was previously combined with a women’s unit on the first floor.
Now the two are separated, which hospital spokesperson Laura Hanzo said will help physicians meet the needs of those two groups of patients more efficiently.
Richard said that allowing children time for play during a hospital visit can help provide a distraction and comfort them in what is often a scary place.
“They don’t have any of their toys here, and they don’t know why they don’t’ feel well,” said Richard. “This helps them get away from the clinical setting, and makes things feel normal.”
In addition to the new playroom, a separate procedure room has been installed on the pediatric wing. Richard said that way, nothing uncomfortable is associated with the child’s room, and it remains a peaceful place where they can rest.
Richard said there has been a positive response to the new playroom from both patients and parents.
“The kids love it, and so do mom and dad,” she said. “We want them to feel comfortable from the time they come in to the time they go home, and this helps make the experience more tolerable for everyone.”