Distraction Therapy

Bill Nelson built this N scale model railroad for the children's hospital where he works as a pediatric nurse. Advocate Lutheran Hospital photo

For sick children, sometimes the best medicine is to simply help them focus their attention on other things. This idea of "distraction therapy" was the main goal behind Bill Nelson's interactive N scale layout. Bill, a pediatric nurse at Advocate Lutheran General Children's Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill., said he built the railroad to "help get kids' minds off of their illnesses and instead focus on something fun."

The railroad, located next to the nurses' station at the hospital's in-patient pediatric care unit, has tracks on two levels. Children can start the trains moving at the push of a button. The layout also features a treasure hunt game, and kids can search for items from a list that hangs next to the layout's glass display case. Some of the items on the list are pretty challenging to find, and many have clues written in the form of riddles. Bill said that he tried to make the game fun for patients of all ages.

The project took Bill more than 500 hours to complete, and he says he is especially appreciative of his family's patience during construction. For example, Bill points out that "the trestle took over the dining room table for weeks."

The model railroad has been a big hit since its installation - and has a big responsibility too: Advocate Lutheran Children's Hospital treats more than 3,500 inpatients and 100,000 outpatients annually. That's a lot of little minds to keep busy!


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