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Wildlife 'roaming' walls of Phoebe

Mandy Lanier, child life specialist at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, shows the artistic rendering of a lion that was recently put up on the hospital’s pediatric floor to Rodney James Jr., 20 months. The piece was among several depicting wild animals that have been put up as a means to create stronger bonding experiences on the floor.

Mandy Lanier, child life specialist at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, shows the artistic rendering of a lion that was recently put up on the hospital’s pediatric floor to Rodney James Jr., 20 months. The piece was among several depicting wild animals that have been put up as a means to create stronger bonding experiences on the floor.

ALBANY, Ga. -- The hospital can be a scary place for anyone, particularly the little ones who are too young to understand many of the things they are going through.

To help ease that stress for the patients, as well as their families, a little something extra has been added to the pediatric floor of Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital.

Lions, zebras, elephants and monkeys are among the visitors now roaming the walls of the second-floor unit, thanks to some new artwork that recently went up. The jungle-themed project, funded by donations to the Phoebe Foundation, was designed by Jenni Bode, a graphic designer at Phoebe.

Aside from the art on the walls, there is also an "Under the Sea" theme on the ceiling's translucent light panels.

Before this project, the walls on the floor were relatively plain.

"They (the patients) didn't have anything to look at before," said Mandy Lanier, child life specialist at Phoebe. "There was nothing on the walls, so there was less of a reason to get them (out of bed)."

Five individual animals have been scattered throughout the unit in addition to a complete mural alongside one wall that includes squirrels, trees and giraffes. There is a monkey in the treatment room, and another piece showing a monkey riding a giraffe in the entryway of the floor.

While the art just started going up on June 28, the addition had been in the planning stages since fall, officials at the hospital say.

"It's to make it (the pediatrics unit) more child-friendly," said Cary Burcham, the new director of children's services for the hospital. "... There were a lot of ideas explored back and forth, and we decided that animals would be fun. It creates a bonding experience and makes the hospital less of a scary place."

While patient comfort ought to be something hospitals strive for with patients of all ages, it is particularly important with those in a pediatric environment, Burcham said.

"Kids are not small adults," he said. "Pediatric health care is very special. There are very special ways of making it more therapeutic."

The idea was turned into a reality after it became evident that the bonding activities the patients and their families were utilizing eventually lost their luster after awhile.

"Kids are constantly coming out of rooms, and they get bored with games," said Lavonda Mande, nurse manager for the pediatric floor. "The nurses came together and brainstormed."

Even in the initial stages of the animals being put up, there already seemed to be a difference in the atmosphere.

"What we are noticing is that it is creating family bonding," Mande said when they first started going up. "... There is stronger bonding. With the nurses and all, it is a family atmosphere."

Officials say it appears that the same attitude has held even in the days following so far.

"The mural has been a great addition to the look of the department. The kids who have seen it have really loved it. We are pleased with the result," Lanier said Friday.

Since there are children on the floor at various developmental stages, the pieces even serve as an educational experience for some -- such as the opportunity for the patients to learn what the animals would sound like in real life, or how to count the number of animals in a single mural.

In a way, it allows the pediatrics staff to create an artificial zoo.

"We can't bring the zoo here, but we can create one here," Mande said.