The heart beads program
From July 2008 through June 2009, 760 infants and children with cardiac conditions were admitted to a pediatric hospital in Australia with approximately 360 cardiac surgical procedures performed. This was the first experience in hospital for many of these children, with diagnoses signaling the beginning of a long and arduous journey. These children undergo multiple treatments and procedures, as well as multiple admissions for further surgeries. Procedures in any regard can cause stress and anxiety, especially in children who often have limited understanding and so little control over what happens to them (Lau, 2002).A heart center for children exists at the hospital with the aim of providing a consistent experience for children with cardiac conditions as they move through the different hospital environments, from preadmission clinic to operating theaters to the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU), and then on to the cardiac ward. The Heart Beads Program was developed within a context of person-centered care to enrich the experience of children with cardiac conditions by providing them with distinctive beads specific to each procedure, treatment, or event in recognition of their experiences and endurance (McCormack et al., 2008). This column focuses on the process of starting the program and on preliminary responses from staff, children, and families.