Child psychologist Susan Patton played a quick game of Jenga with one of her young patients Thursday afternoon to help him feel comfortable in her office at Pensacola Naval Hospital.
The game, which involves stacking small wooden blocks until they fall down, is fun for the kids she counsels and allows them to forget they are in a clinical setting, said Patton, who has decades of experience working with children from military families.
Starting Oct. 1, Patton and the youngsters she helps will have their own space inside the hospital's recently opened pediatric clinic. She is looking forward to the move.
"I think it's going to be a lot easier because I work so closely with the pediatricians," she said.
And the children feel more comfortable waiting to see their doctor in a room filled with other children that is designed for kids, rather than a room designed for adults, she said.
Dr. John Moree, the clinic administrator, agreed.
Before the clinic opened, pediatricians were assigned to family medicine teams and pediatric patients waited with adult patients.
A mother with a sick toddler might have been in the same waiting area as an 80-year-old patient using a walker, he said.
"You can imagine the issues," he said.
After hearing from patients and doctors who weren't happy with the setup, hospital administrators decided to separate the pediatric clinic.
"The kids have a lot more freedom down here. They can run around and be kids," Moree said.
The clinic's walls are decorated with sea creatures and the waiting includes small tables, chairs and books for children.
The clinic is staffed with nurses, corpsmen and other people who enjoy working with parents and kids, Moree said.
"From a medical perspective, it is invaluable to have another pediatrician next door," he said. "If you have a kid with a rash, you have another set of eyes and can get a very quick second opinion."
Patton, the psychologist, will have a room that includes a play area and a two-way mirror to observe patients.
Many of her patients are referred by the clinic's doctors and are experiencing issues with anxiety, depression or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Patton said it is important that the she can work closely with the doctors.
"It makes sense for us to be in the same place," she said.