The University of Michigan Health C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, Mich., wanted to ease anxieties and help its pediatric patients feel at ease. For a recent project, the 348-bed hospital worked with Detroit-based businesses to create themed environments featuring animal characters and images.

From sunglasses-wearing giraffes to scuba-diving dogs and surfing frogs, a variety of cartoon and real-life animal images were designed.

The images are featured on floor graphics, ceiling clings, and wall art within the emergency room, waiting spaces, and inpatient floor.

The program even introduced themed scrub caps for staff in the children’s operating room areas. The attire helps to take patients’ minds off their upcoming procedures as well as provides a conversation starter for doctors and nurses.

The program debuted in March. Feedback from patients and family members on the program has been nothing but positive, says Luanne Thomas Ewald, chief operating officer at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital.

“Children love the animal characters, and it’s a welcome distraction during their stay,” she says.

Supplier Healthmark Industries, publisher Avanti Press, and licensed décor company Fathead tested the concept on a complimentary basis at the hospital. The partners plan to introduce it at additional children’s hospitals this fall.

Anne DiNardo is executive editor of Healthcare Design magazine. She can be reached at