Published on June 26, 2020

Silver Cross Helps Calm Young Patients before Surgery with their Favorite Technology

As a former nurse at Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, Lindsie Fransen of Orland Park saw many tiny patients wheeled into surgery while their parents waited anxiously and sometimes tearfully behind.

thumbs up in font of hospital
Andrew Fransen gives Silver Cross a thumbs-up for surgery. 

Then Fransen experienced it herself as a concerned parent. Last year, her 4-year-old son Andrew was scheduled for a tonsillectomy at Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox. Silver Cross has a clinical partnership with Lurie Children’s Hospital for several pediatric surgery specialties so Fransen was confident Andrew was in great hands.

Still, like any parent would be, Fransen was eager to connect with his care team. So was her son. So Fransen called the Procedural Care Unit at Silver Cross, and Manager Samantha Morgan made it happen.

“I felt so much better talking to them before his surgery,” she said, “and so did Andrew.”

When the day finally arrived, Fransen came to Silver Cross toting toys and games to keep her son’s mind off what was coming next.

“I brought coloring books, crayons and games,” she explained. “We put Andrew in his gown and got him on to the gurney, and they gave him an iPad! He said, ‘I get to use this?’ He has some apps on our phones at home he gets to use now and then. So this was a treat. He was still playing when they wheeled him into surgery. It was a great distraction.”

While coloring books, bubbles and other old-school distractions may have helped in the past, Silver Cross Hospital has been having great success calming young surgical patients by letting them use iPads, with their parents’ approval. 

“We had one young patient today who was crying quite a bit,” said Jennifer Lipke, a pre-op nurse at Silver Cross for 16 years. “But once we gave him the iPad, he calmed down and soon was off in his own world. As the mother of 2 1/2-year-old twins, I know how tough this can be. We try to help them anyway we can.”

Dr. Douglas Johnston, a pediatric otolaryngologist (ear nose and throat specialist) on staff at Silver Cross, brought the iPad idea with him from Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago when he began doing surgeries several years ago at Silver Cross.

Andrew before surgery
Andrew before surgery.

Pediatric anesthesia research has shown that tablet use can be as helpful as common preoperative sedative medications in easing anxiety, Dr. Johnston explained. Even the youngest patients are soothed by music from the iPads, such as “Baby Shark” and others off of CoComelon, an online site offering music, videos and activities for kids.

“You have all kinds of commotion going on in pre-op as the children are wheeled away from the pre-operative area to the operating room, so there’s separation anxiety,” he added.

The iPads help them refocus, he said, adding they've actually had kids drifting off while playing with the iPads as the anesthesia takes effect.

Lipke and Morgan say it is, of course, up to the parents whether they want their children to use the iPad, or something more old-school, like a stuffed animal or books.

“You can tell the ones who are familiar with iPads,” Lipke said. “They’ll start using them right away. Those who don’t use them are pretty excited with the treat.”

Still, when they wake up following surgery, the little ones can be disoriented as the anesthesia wears off.

Silver Cross has a plan for that, too.

Kerry Carrozza, a post-op nurse at Silver for 17 years, said they do everything possible to make sure the young patients are as comfortable as possible when they wake up.

They’ll darken the room, she said, and use white noise machines with ocean waves and other comforting sounds to block out the beeping monitors and the traffic in and outside the rooms. If the parents are OK with it, they’ll also hold the child instead of them waking up on a gurney.

“And we bring in the parents while their children are still asleep so the parents are the first people they see when their little eyes open,” she said. “We had one patient who wanted Grandma, but she wasn’t able to come to the hospital. So we were able to FaceTime so the little one could tell Grandma all her troubles.”

Fransen said the calming white noise machine in recovery helped a lot when Andrew woke up from anesthesia.

“It was a great experience,” Fransen said. “We told friends of ours about it, and they came from Naperville to Silver Cross for their child’s surgery. They had a great experience, too.”

Physicians on Silver Cross Hospital’s Medical Staff have expertise in their areas of practice to meet the needs of patients seeking their care. These physicians are independent practitioners on the Medical Staff and are not the agents or employees of Silver Cross Hospital. They treat patients based upon their independent medical judgment and they bill patients separately for their services.