Emojis improving how hospital staff interact with young patients

Last month, more than 400 nurses, students and health professionals from around Australia attended the Australian College of Nursing’s signature annual event, National Nursing Forum at The Star, Sydney and discussed how to Make Change Happen for the benefit of patients and communities.

Attendees had the opportunity to hear from respected health care leaders, senior decision-makers and Members of Parliament including Clinical Nurse Educator, Maria Brien and Quality Manager, Laurel Mimmo who spoke on behalf of Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick.

As part of their information session, Maria and Laurel shared insights on how the Hospital worked with adolescent patients to co-design a communication board which uses emojis as a way for young patients and their families to communicate their feelings with treating health professionals.

Emojis were suggested by one patient and enthusiastically supported by other patients as a common communication tool. Emojis that patients could use to show their feelings included happy, sad, teary and angry graphics, but could also use graphics to show wheelchairs, x-rays, tablets as well as food and drink they may desire.

“We have found that the emojis prompt a conversation with and between the patient and/or family, which may be difficult to initiate with words, and is especially significant for those young people who are unable to express their needs and feelings verbally,” said Maria Brien.

“In doing this, we have modelled how the patient voice is not only about words, and changed how nurses interact with young people.”

“The boards are an opportunity to show how children and adolescents can be actively engaged in the co-production and implementation of a change to improve the hospital experience for children and young people,” added Maria.