We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: your waiting room matters. It’s often the first impression patients get of your practice, and they may even spend more time there than in the exam room. Your waiting room can make the difference between anxious or relaxed patients and families. This is especially true if you have pediatric patients, or patients who bring their children with them to appointments.
The sky’s the limit when it comes to creating kid-friendly waiting rooms, but you can start with some simple steps and a few key considerations that will appeal to the younger visitors to your practice, and to their caregivers.
One size does not fit all
Child-sized furniture is a must for a waiting room that’s welcoming for all ages. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive, though. IKEA sells affordable, kid-friendly tables, chairs, stools, and other décor. A simple reading nook with some bookshelves and beanbag chairs on the floor is another option.
Wall decals are an easy, non-permanent way to liven up your walls and create an appealing area for kids within your waiting room. You can find colorful, stylish decals anywhere from Walmart and Target to children’s décor retailer Land of Nod.
Research shows that incorporating nature into health care environments can promote well-being. This can include natural light, materials like wood and natural fibers, earth-toned colors, plants, and water features. Aquariums are popular with all ages, and have even been found to lower blood pressure and improve people’s moods.
For more décor suggestions, search “pediatric waiting room ideas” on Google images or Pinterest for some fun — and some over-the-top — options.
Consider the space
When considering the layout of your waiting room, make sure it’s easy to navigate strollers or wheelchairs between the furniture, recommends an article published in Patient Safety and Quality Healthcare (PSQH) magazine. And have enough open space to accommodate active children.
Interior designers know that hard surfaces amplify noise while soft materials reduce it. A combination of upholstered furniture, carpeting, and acoustic ceiling tiles is the best solution to minimize noise in your waiting room. “Soothing background music or loops of nature sounds create a relaxing environment,” suggests PSQH.
Of course, it should go without saying that all waiting rooms should be kept meticulously clean — particularly ones where small children play on the floor. Make sure to choose durable, washable materials that can hold up to frequent cleanings.
No such thing as too clean
If you provide any toys in the waiting room, those too should be selected based on how easily they can be cleaned and disinfected. Stuffed animals are a no-no; dishwasher-safe plastic toys are ideal.
The CDC recommends establishing policies and procedures for cleaning and disinfecting toys at regular intervals as well whose responsibility it is to clean the toys, reports MCN Healthcare. During flu season or in certain environments, it may even be a better idea to replace toys and books with videos to prevent the risk of infection.
“A well-designed waiting area that keeps in mind the growing concern of infection control will not only help the children receiving treatment relax, but also the parent who may have to sit in that waiting room for long periods of time,” writes Shandi Matambanadzo in Healthcare Design magazine.
Screens with a purpose
Screens can be a way to engage kids and keep them busy and calm in the waiting room. But don’t simply tune the TV to a cartoon channel and leave it on all day. For one thing, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting screen time especially in young children. For children ages two to five years, the recommendation is one hour per day of “high-quality programs.”
Also, not all kids’ shows are appropriate for all children or all ages. Some parents won’t appreciate Spongebob in the waiting room. A better idea is to show appealing educational content for your young patients, such as this video, “How Animals See Differently:”
Other options include age-appropriate medical videos, trivia, or jokes. As we suggested in a previous post, if you have a TV on, consider putting it behind a wall or divider, or muting it and putting on closed captions so as not to disturb patients who prefer a quiet environment. Rendia offers hundreds of entertaining and educational videos that can be played silently, such as this penny joke that’s sure to be a hit with young readers, and this image reveal that challenges kids to “name that animal.”
Paying attention to your waiting room’s ambiance and offerings will pay off with satisfied patients, and parents. For more ideas on helping your patients stay happy and healthy, subscribe to our newsletter.