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New robots give kids in hospital the freedom to explore

New technology at Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital is giving young patients the freedom to play and explore, all without ever leaving their hospital room.

Two new remote-controlled robots are the most recent additions to the Child Life Program at Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital, giving young patients the ability to interact with others when they can’t leave their hospital rooms while medically isolated. A patient can use a special computer tablet to maneuver the 4’8” tall robot and communicate easily with others, as both the tablet and robot are equipped with a microphone, speaker and screen like FaceTime or Skype.

The robots will act as a tool for patients in isolation to virtually participate in fun activities and events in the Child Life Zone and engage with other children from their hospital beds. While group programming is on hold due to COVID-19 restrictions, the telepresence robots can be used in fun and creative ways to help patients stay connected. With the help of the Child Life team, kids can use the robots to remotely challenge each other to a game of giant Connect 4, participate in scavenger hunts, complete obstacle courses and much more.

“When patients are on isolation, it can feel very lonely and they miss out on a lot of the events that are brought to the hospital. These robots will brighten spirits and motivate patients to sit up and engage with the Child Life team, nurses and physicians in the halls, and peers experiencing similar environmental restrictions, leading to better outcomes,” explained Dominique Rust, Child Life Program Manager at Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital.

Dominique Rust

The robots were generously donated by country music legend Garth Brooks and his Teammates for Kids Foundation. Each year Brooks and his wife Trisha Yearwood gift an item to each Child Life Zone in children’s hospitals across North America to show gratitude for what Child Life Specialists offer patients and families during their admissions to hospitals. After receiving the two robots this spring, Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital Child Life staff decided to name them “Garth” and “Trisha.”

“We are very grateful to the Teammates for Kids Foundation for this generous gift that will help kids in isolation create connections beyond physical limitations and find a sense of independence,” said Brynn Boback-Lane, President and CEO of Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital Foundation. “Child Life is about putting our kids and families first and it has played a vital role in supporting families and reducing fear and anxiety for patients during hospital stays.”  

The robots are just one of many resources available through the Mosaic Child Life Program based out the state-of-the-art Child Life Zone. Created in partnership with Teammates for Kids Foundation, The Mosaic Company and Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital Foundation, this 2,800 square foot space is the first of its kind in Canada.

Saskatchewan’s Child Life Zone joins 11 others from across North America, including Atlanta, Aurora, Dallas, Denver, Fort Worth, Houston, Indianapolis, Minnesota, New York, Oklahoma City and Phoenix. Certified Child Life Specialists staff the Zone, teaching kids about their illness and what to expect during treatment through play, education and self-expression, ultimately helping to promote positive experiences and allowing kids to be kids.

You can help keep programs like Child Life moving forward by supporting Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital Foundation today. 

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