The Norwegian Hospital Book helps sick children

The book is the child’s own little arena for him or her to master. Photo: Rikshospitalet HF / Thea Tønnessen

Rikshospitalet University Hospital in Oslo is helping sick children and their parents to relate to, and process, their experiences at hospital. They have developed the Hospital Book which uses text and visual elements to inspire children in hospital to speak about, feel and record their own experiences.

The Hospital Book project was originally initiated by writer Taran Bjørnstad and graphic designer Tone Bergan (Design to be) and is primarily for children aged form 8 to 12 years old. A multidisciplinary resource group at Rikshospitalet has helped give the book’s content a sound medical basis, in a way that children and their parents can understand.

The book, which is interactive, allows children, their parents and hospital staff to shape its content so that is meaningful and works on several levels.

“The Hospital Book can be used regardless of the diagnosis the child has received. It is primarily intended for children between the ages of eight and twelve who have been admitted to hospital for three days or more. The book is given to the child by health care professionals when the child is admitted to hospital,” explains Kristine Hetland Clark, who is project manager for the Hospital Book and information consultant at Rikshospitalet University Hospital, which each year treats more than 30,000 children.

“The book can help children to express their feelings and it paves the way for dialogue between the child, its parents and health care professionals. It gives everyone involved a common point of departure and reinforces their participation in the treatment process. In this way one also achieves a more effective and better quality hospital stay,” says Kristine Hetland Clark, who maintains that such a large project requires the right professionals and good alliances internally. The comprehensive analysis carried out in advance, through interviews with potential users, was also crucial to the final result.

The Hospital Book was awarded the Norwegian Design Council’s Award for Design Excellence in 2009. At the recommendation of the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs, funding was granted to distribute the book throughout the country. The task of implementing the book in workplaces continues – and therein lies the next challenge.


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