KHSC designs new product for pediatric patients

News / General
By Meaghan Quinn

Diagnostic Imaging collaborates with patient to design a new product that helps pediatric patients who require an x-ray

For Kara Smith, watching her young daughter Ella receive an x-ray was one of the most helpless and frustrating feelings she has experienced as a parent. And she’s had a lot of experience with those feelings, as at the tender age of five years old, Ella had already undergone a number of x-rays for multiple fractures.

Through her visits, Kara began to notice a trend. When staff were preparing Ella for her x-ray they would either place a lap apron on her to help cover her reproductive organs, or an adult-sized apron which was too large and could leave her neck exposed. While staff explained that all safety requirements were being met and that the risk of radiation exposure was extremely low, Kara believed something different could be done.

“It didn’t make sense to me that when I had to sit with Ella to have x-rays done I needed to wear a full-size apron for protection but she would have this tiny lap apron or be uncomfortable in an apron the size of mine,” says Kara. “Especially for children who are going through what to them is a scary process.”

After one of their visits to the hospital for an x-ray, Kara sent an email expressing her concern over the sizing of the aprons and her belief that more could be done for the pediatric patients. Within a week she heard back from the director of Diagnostic Imaging letting her know that the department was working on a solution.

“When we received Kara’s email it made us think of what we could do to improve the experience for our young patients,” says Karen Pearson, Director of Diagnostic Imaging. “Though the equipment and tools we have all meet the safety requirements, we realized that there was an opportunity here to still do better.”

Charge Technologist Margaret Bollen took on the task of researching what other products were available to protect children who receive x-rays. To her surprise, she discovered that there were no products on the market specific to this patient population.

“Once I realized there were no existing products I contacted our vendor Ryan Medical and worked with them to develop a prototype of what a child’s x-ray apron could look like,” says Marg. “Through this mother’s concern we saw an opportunity to create something new to provide better options for one of our most important patient groups – children.”

The following six months Marg, the Diagnostic Imaging team and Ryan Medical went through numerous versions of a pediatric apron, making sure they got it just right. Their work included getting the apron length correct, developing a thyroid collar, increasing shoulder width coverage and selecting designs that were kid-friendly.

During this period of development, regular updates were being shared with Kara on where things stood with the creation of new pediatric aprons.

“I was incredibly surprised by this whole process and felt like my concerns and opinions were really being listened to and taken into consideration,” says Kara. “This team was fantastic about keeping me in the loop and it was just really awesome to be a part of this initiative.”

Now, as a result of one email, the Diagnostic Imaging team at KHSC has created a brand new product that can be used to help children wherever they receive x-ray’s.

“The opportunity that Kara identified for us has not only resulted in a tangible improvement for our hospital in its care of the pediatric patient but it may in fact influence the entire industry by causing us to pause and think about how we can further improve the care we provide,” says Karen. “The fact that we have been able to use this opportunity to create a product that will be available for all hospitals across the province or country is incredibly significant and exciting to be part of.”

After several months of work, the Diagnostic Imaging team invited Kara, Ella and the rest of the Smith family back to the Kingston General Hospital site to view, model and provide feedback on the newly created pediatric apron. The new aprons have a belt that buckles up on the back as well as anti-skid material on the backing to help hold the apron in place for when a child has to lay down.  They also come three different sizes for different age ranges.

“I am thrilled with the final product, they’re absolutely fantastic and definitely an improvement over what was previously available. As a parent, this makes me feel that my child is now getting the highest level of protection,” says Kara.

With the family’s approval and one more tweak to the final design, the finalized pediatric apron will be available to the entire industry to order. Diagnostic Imaging will be ordering more sets for both KHSC hospital sites as well the Lennox and Addington Hospital to begin using with pediatric patients. From there, they will be raising awareness of the new pediatric aprons to colleagues across the region and province.

Out of all of this work, what was young Ella’s reaction to the new aprons?

“They’re pretty cool because the colours remind me of my Just Dance game, if I had to wear one again I would be happy with this.”