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Question: How can we enhance communication between nurses and terminally ill children in hospitals?

Our Response:

Sadly, there are so many kids in the world who are sick. It’s such a heartbreaking thing to see, but there’s no doubt it draws out a common emotion in us – compassion. Equally important are the caretakers of those sick kids. Working with an oncology wing at a hospital in Mexico City, we wondered how we could leverage this powerful feeling of “compassion” and use it to improve the tough and scary moments sick kids face in the hospital when they’re getting treatment. 


In the pediatric ward, the nurses are the portal to the children. Nurses themselves face a lot of stressful moments and have many responsibilities. We explored designing a tool that could increase empathy and establish an emotional connection between sick kids with cancer and nurses. 

What value can the personal experiences of participants bring to the design process of a tool intended for their use?

The Approach:

  • First, we conducted a series of interviews with 4 oncology pediatric patients and 9 nurses of the pediatric oncology ward.

  • Our discussions with these participants were intended to identify and understand the emotions they experience during these different crucial procedures.

  • We took this data and used it to create emotional maps that helped inform the design of our prototype.  based on EBCD (experience-based co-design).

  • Once we had the prototype established we then tested this rigorously with our participants in a series of workshops.

  • The feedback from these workshops was collected and implemented into a second and final prototype.


The Outcome:

It was determined that the prototype would be an application – accessible from smartphones, and based on sounds rather than images. Why? – because we discovered that everyone had smartphones; even the parents of the most underprivileged pediatric oncology patients, as well as by all of the nurses of the oncology ward. The nature of the app would be based on establishing emotional connections between the participants (nurses and their pediatric oncology patients), allowing them to discover the touchpoints in which they often feel the same emotions. 


The application is designed to be used prior, during, and after painful and stressful procedures that the nurses administered to the children (such as vaccines or the taking of blood samples). The application would allow the nurse and the patient to connect on an emotional level before these procedures, establishing touchpoints of compassion and empathy between them.

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