Earlier this year, Dr. Rebecca Smith, Medical Director of Novant Rowan Medical Center (RMC), faced a dilemma all too familiar to Emergency Department (ED) clinicians: a growing need for more exam rooms to decrease waiting-room times. This dilemma prompted her to inquire about four vacant rooms in the RMC ED that were previously used as a psychiatric pod, but were sitting empty. Dr. Smith recognized that these empty rooms could be transformed into a welcoming and colorful pediatric pod and she repurposed the space for the comfort of children and their families.

“When kids come into the Emergency Department, it can feel very overwhelming to them and these new rooms can make things feel a little less scary,” says Dr. Smith. Collaborating with ED nurses and staff, Dr. Smith led the effort to decorate the rooms with kid-friendly artwork, furnish them with nursing-friendly reclining chairs, and collect donations for books and toys for children to take home. Dr. Smith also created a convenience cart stocked with diapers, wipes, stickers, etc. 

Since RMC is the only hospital within a 45-minute radius, it cares for a lot of pediatric patients. As many pediatric ED visits are lower acuity, these patients were frequently evaluated in the waiting room in an effort to decrease wait time. With the addition of the new pediatric pod, these patients now have a more private and inviting space tailored to their age group. “These rooms give children a safe place to receive medical care in an otherwise scary setting. They are engaging and create a more relaxed environment,” says Beth McInnis MSN, ARNP, ACNP-BC, FNP-BC, an ED clinician at RMC.

By transforming the unused rooms into cheerful spaces, Dr. Smith and her team have enhanced the quality of care for pediatric patients and improved overall patient flow in the ED. “Having young kids myself, I know what it’s like to be waiting for medical care. My goal with this initiative was to give children a better experience when they come to RMC,” says Dr. Smith. 

When not in use for pediatric patients, the ED continues to benefit from this pod conversion by using the space for lower-acuity adult patients. Dr. Smith’s creativity and initiative are a great example of the MEMA ethos at work. She recognized a patient population in need and demonstrated her commitment to serving the local community.