Bringing Disney Magic to Young Patients
New Disney installations throughout NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital are bringing comfort and joy to patients.
Analiah Burgos, 5, and her friend Mariana Cuevas, 16, run to a colorful new mural full of Disney characters in the hallway of NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital. “I love Moana!” Analiah says, jumping up and down as she spots the adventurous movie character. With the help of a child life specialist, Mariana aims a smartphone at Moana. Suddenly, Moana points her spear and floats away in her sailboat amidst the lapping waves.
“It’s amazing!” says Mariana, dressed in a Minnie Mouse hospital gown. “They just come alive!”
The vast mural is one of nearly 50 new, whimsical Disney installations that now greet young patients like Mariana and Analiah throughout NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital to brighten their stay.
“Thanks to Disney’s initiative to support children’s hospitals, we are reimagining the patient experience by transforming the spaces that our pediatric patients encounter, immersing them into the magical world of Disney,” says Bernadette Khan, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, vice president and chief nursing officer at NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital.
Dr. Khan says the new spaces, which were celebrated with a ribbon cutting in April, make the patient journey easier for children and their families.
“We understand that a hospital can be a scary place for children and stressful for their parents,” Khan says. “So with Disney’s help, we added colorful, interactive spaces throughout the hospital filled with familiar Disney characters and stories to help ease anxiety and bring comfort to children when they need it the most.”
Child life specialist Jessica Goldberg says the transformed spaces are already making a difference.
“When I see the patients interact with the murals, their faces just come to life,” Goldberg says. “A lot of our patients come here for multiple visits or stay in the hospital for weeks or months at a time. These murals can be very helpful because it brings something familiar and exciting for them to engage with.”
Murals, Magic Windows, and Magic Art
The Disney elements include large, visually stunning murals that feature beloved Disney characters and stories. Many of the murals come to life with a tap of the Disney Team of Heroes app on a smartphone. Magic windows, in areas like the Emergency Department, display calming nature moments, such as brightly-colored fish swimming through coral in the deep blue sea and comforting animated scenes from movies such as Frozen. Magic art offers interactive experiences when children activate the digital screen. Characters from stories such as Cars, The Incredibles, the Marvel Universe, and more spark to life in humorous short videos, offering children encouraging messages in English and Spanish.
“I think it’s really cool and entertaining,” says Jennifer Franco Rojas, 9, who has been in the hospital for two months for leukemia treatment. She activates the magic art near her room and dances with the characters when they appear.
In playrooms, children interact with Star Wars– and Pixar-themed play spaces designed to encourage free play with no technology. Patients can enjoy movies at a mobile movie theater and access complimentary Disney TV content in the DisneyNOW app, when connected to the hospital Wi-Fi. Staff are offered badges with familiar Disney characters that can be worn on their uniforms to serve as a conversation starter and cheer up their patients. Staff also are offered Disney Institute service and leadership training, designed to enhance the experience they provide to their patients. Through a collaboration with Starlight Children’s Foundation, children are given Disney-themed care packages with toys and activities.
“Great to See Her Smiling”
The vibrant new spaces help ease children’s journeys throughout the hospital.
“A lot of these murals are placed in areas of high stress and anxiety, such as procedure rooms, the operating room hallway, and the Emergency Department,” Goldberg says. “As these places can be scary and overwhelming for patients and their family members, they give children an opportunity to be distracted from all of that and be a kid, play, and interact.”
Mariana agrees. “It just makes my mind go way off the stuff in the hospital.”
A few floors away, Gireinny Garcia, 10, who often stays in the hospital for cancer treatments, comes out of her room and spots the new Disney mural in the hallway. As an alternative to the standard hospital gown, children can choose a Disney-themed Starlight Gown, and Gireinny recently dressed up as Anna from the movie Frozen. Together with Goldberg, the child life specialist, they point the tablet at Winnie the Pooh. Gireinny laughs as the lovable bear splashes head first into a jug of “hunny.”
“It’s great to see her smiling,” says her mother, Giselle Silva. “She looks very happy and very distracted. She doesn’t think about everything that’s going on.”
Goldberg says the Disney spaces help parents too.
“Parents love these murals because it can help to decrease their anxiety seeing that their children are interacting and playing, even while they’re at the hospital,” Goldberg says.
Khan enjoys watching the reaction of families experiencing the Disney magic.
“The most exciting part is seeing the impact of this gift on the faces of children, their families and our workforce,” Khan says. “We are so excited to transform the experience for our patients and families.”
To learn more about the Disney initiative at NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital, visit nyp.org/morganstanley/disney.