I was at Seattle Children's Hospital today. In a way, it's sad that there are entire hospitals devoted to Children. But, in another way, it's wonderful. A children's hospital can be an opportunity, not a problem, and I am pleased to say that was what I saw today.
The childish touches (and I mean that in a good way) were everywhere:
- It starts at the parking lot, which are named Whale and Giraffe (and they have free valet parking, which means parents can concentrate on their kids).
- As we walked from the parking lot, we passed the topiary whales, then traversed an elevated walkway, where we could look down to see a playful sculpture garden on one side, and, on the other side, a nicely designed outdoor courtyard. On both sides, the railings were glass, almost 5 feet tall, so that no parent would ever have to wonder if their kid could fall over.
- Inside, everything is decorated wonderfully, with bright colors -- even the elevators, which had dolphins on the back wall and clouds on the ceiling. The lobby had a giant Native American-style whale hanging from the ceiling. Nearby, there was a 15-foot long bench that looked like a Native American canoe, with a bench height of maybe a foot. Everywhere, furniture came in both large and small versions.
- The waiting rooms had crayons and playing cards for the kids with signs that said you could take them with you (although my kids are older now, I certainly remember times when I had to explain to my kids that they couldn't keep something like that). Another waiting room had a GameCube, while another had a giant screen with rotating images of marine life. Each image would appear and then, after a while, text would be shown telling what it was, like it was a little puzzle for kids to guess what the animals were.
- In radiology and other rooms like that, the TVs were pre-tuned to kids channels.
- In the hallways, intersections always seemed to have little pieces of artwork. I'm speculating, but I imagine that it's so they can give directions like "go down to the turtle and turn left."
- Parents can go into X-ray rooms (etc.) with their kids when necessary.
- They have sibling day care.
Each of these items alone could be considered a small attention to detail (and I've barely scratched the surface, I'm sure). But, all together, they indicate a strong focus on who the hospital is for. This hospital is clearly not for the doctors, the hospital staff or administrators, or the parents. It is for the children. And that's the way it should be.
Put simply: They understood their real users.
By the way, I feel the need to note that I haven't been to any other children's hospitals, so I'm by no means trying to suggest that the Seattle hospital is better than the others. I sincerely hope that they're all wonderful.