The design of a pediatric chiropractic practice can take two different paths.
Which path is better for you depends upon the results you are looking to achieve.
One child-friendly design is created for the convenience of parents. The other is created to promote health benefits for children under chiropractic care.
The “convenience” design has elements that entertain children while the parent gets adjusted. It keeps children occupied, but it does nothing to promote pediatric chiropractic wellness and usually places a huge burden on your staff.
The “health benefits” design creates a child-friendly environment that promotes pediatric chiropractic wellness.
Whichever you choose, here are some things you should consider:
- Location, location, location. A children’s play area in the reception room should welcome kids to your practice and make them feel safe.
Proper design creates a place for children to congregate. The area should be decorated to advise parents that your clinic is a “child friendly” environment. It should also be the first hint that there are numerous benefits to having children under chiropractic care.
Remember, it’s never too early to educate patients, even young ones.
- Who’s the babysitter? Position the children’s play area so your staff does not have to babysit the children, but keep them away from the front door. Some children could be out the door and halfway down the block before anyone could begin the chase.
- Decorate this area with primary colors and child-level artwork.
- Back to basics. Utilize safe, fun toys to keep kids’ attention. Remember that younger children love to put things in their mouths. Limit toys to those that are easily washable and large enough to not be swallowed.
Instead of building elaborate, interesting, or unique play areas, go to the basics. Furnish this area with a durable play desk or table and chairs.
- Open or closed room. Although a private or soundproof room for children sounds like a great idea, it can actually work against your primary purpose for having a kids’ space.
Creating a private area may give children a “free for all” feeling. It might also give parents a false sense of freedom — that they do not have to watch their own children, because the staff will.
Half walls (typically 42 inches) surrounding the play area are a better design choice. This area can be as small as 5 feet by 5 feet, although larger is better. Avoid sharp corners by using round “corner bead” to finish the corners of the drywall in this area.
Do not place any electrical outlets in or near this area.
- HIPAA compliance. Be cautious about adding a “tree of life” that displays pictures of the children you adjust unless you have a signed release that complies with HIPAA rules.
It is important, however, to visually explain the importance of having children checked. Ensure that your pediatric patient educational brochures are situated for simple distribution to all patients early in their chiropractic experience.
- Keep the children’s area interesting, but not entertaining. The primary purpose of the area is to prevent children from losing their attention span before you have the chance to “check or adjust” them.
Kids’ play areas are often so much fun that they actually extend the typical visit by as much as 10 percent or more, which is not in anyone’s best interest.
Note: If you offer video entertainment, take advantage of the opportunity to train young minds for the behavior you want.
- Adjusting area. A semi open adjusting area is the perfect location for a children’s play area. Their parents are present to control them, and they are where you need them to make it easy to get them checked. An added benefit is that your front-desk assistant does not have to babysit.
Some chiropractors fear having a play area too close to the adjusting tables. The only time this is a problem is when the doctor has no control over the facility. At no time is it OK for children or adults to turn your adjusting area into a social event.
If you practice in a closed-room environment, acclimate your young patients to the fun aspect of chiropractic. Do not alienate them with mixed messages. Let children experience the sights and sounds of the adjusting environment before the actual adjustment. This helps to eliminate any fear and anxiety the child may experience before the adjustment.
A family room is a perfect solution for this. Simply adding two feet to the width of any standard adjusting room will allow you to add a “sub-waiting room” within the adjusting room.
The sub-waiting area can be as simple as a bench that can seat the entire family (approximately 6 or 8 feet long), installed on the same wall as the door opening. The bench lets the children snuggle to the safety of the parent as they transition to their own adjustment.
Having the entire family go to the family room also clears the reception room to accept more patients. And it gives you an excellent opportunity to check the children and get them adjusted.
Although you may prefer to add a child sized “dino or pony” style table, the current trend is to acclimate children to the full-sized table that they will be using for the rest of their lives. Unless you have numerous rooms with special children’s tables, you will severely restrict patient flow when more than one family arrives at your practice at the same time.
- Safety first. Locate switches to powered tables out of reach of children — at least 6 feet above the floor.
Avoid trailing power cords from the table across the floor to the wall outlet. Install floor outlets directly under the table or use high quality “thresholds” to safely hide this potential tripping hazard.
Childproof your outlets and cabinets with standard household safety devices.
Be sure to childproof hydroculators by fastening them to the wall and hiding the power cords.
Designing a child friendly facility will help you create a fun, healing environment for young patients. After all, well-adjusted children are our future.
Glen David of Davlen Associates, Ltd. has designed and furnished more than 2,500 chiropractic offices. He can be contacted at 631-924-8686 or through his Web site, www.DavlenDesign.com.