New app helps children prepare for hospital visits

New app helps children prepare for hospital visits

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The hospital can be a scary place for kids, especially if they are not sure of why they are there or what is going to happen to them.

To help ease their anxieties, Tucson Medical Center recently launched a new kid-friendly mobile app called KidSpeak aimed to help prepare them for a visit to the hospital.

The free app gives kids a virtual tour of TMC for Children and provides a glossary of terms to simplify the medical jargon nurses and doctors use to describe what's going on with them. It also has a interactive digital whiteboard that pulls up picture graphics of different body organs like the brain and lungs. Doctors and nurses are able to digitally draw on the graphics to show where the procedure will take place.

Amy Fregonese is a Child Life Specialist with TMC for Children. Her job is to calm kids' fears before they go into surgery. She says most of the time, kids are afraid of the unknown. Many are worried about what is going to happen and if it will hurt.

"It's a new environment for them," said Fregonese. "They see people in different clothes, there are white walls and floors and it smells a little bit different."

"We always find that education before a procedure helps to decrease anxiety," said Fregonese. "I think a common misconception is parents think - 'I don't know what to tell my child and I don't want to scare them so I'm not going to say anything at all.' And we've found that really doesn't work. It really creates more fear and so the app is really great for education before coming to the hospital and when they're here."

"We can talk to kids about what's going to happen, what they're going to see, what they're going to feel." she added. "Once they know what to expect and they know different ways to cope, they do much better."

Child Life Specialists with TMC for Children bring an iPad with the KidSpeak app to their young patients while they are in the hospital.

However, parents can download it on their iPhone or Android devices by searching for KidSpeak in the app store before they arrive, to help their children get familiar with medical terms and the layout of the hospital.

Tucson Medical Center for Children officials estimate the hospital sees about 30,000 emergency visits from kids and their parents per year.

Copyright 2015 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved.