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Pain reliever for children, ‘lifesaver’ for parents: What’s all the buzz about?

“A” is for apple and “b” is for bee – that familiar fuzzy, buzzing creature that children are introduced to almost as soon as they say their first words. At Markham Stouffville Hospital, that buzzing bee is much more than a way to learn the alphabet – it is a friendly face to children and parents and a way to ensure children visiting the hospital have a positive experience.

“In medicine now there is a lot of intervention, even in the first two years of life,” explains Dr. Deepa Grewal, paediatrician, Markham Stouffville Hospital. “These experiences stay with us and set the stage for future experiences. We want to make a child’s view of visiting the hospital good from the get go, not threatening or scary.”

This is why the hospital has begun using Buzzy, a bee-shaped vibrating device with an attachable ice pack, to ease the pain and anxiety experienced by children during uncomfortable procedures.

“The physiology is really amazing,” explains Dr. Grewal. “When Buzzy is placed between the pain and the brain, the cold mixed with the vibration confuses the brain and closes the gateway to painful stimuli. It can be helpful for any invasive procedure, such as starting an intravenous line or drawing blood. Plus, he’s cute!”

Not only does Buzzy physiologically block the pain of a needle prick, but it also provides a form of distraction, something Julie Atkinson, the hospital’s child life specialist says is essential. “Whether it is through colouring, bubbles, stickers or toys, distraction is so important. By introducing a child to Buzzy before they receive a needle or other intervention, we can keep them focused on something else and they experience the pain quite differently.”

As Dr. Grewal explains, “We are using all our resources, tools and techniques, including the expertise of our child life specialist, who is really invaluable. Buzzy is one more thing in our arsenal to distract children. Ultimately, if a child has a positive experience, they can recover faster.”

Atkinson works closely with paediatric patients throughout the hospital, including within the childbirth and children’s centre, laboratory, paediatric diabetes clinic and emergency department and has witnessed the positive effect Buzzy has on children, as well as parents. “From the parents’ perspective, it is hard to understand pain because the kids can’t tell us; we have to read their cues,” she explains. “Using Buzzy is engaging for parents; they can participate in distracting their child, which makes them feel like they are helping.”
Rose Cameirao, a nurse in the hospital’s childbirth and children’s centre, says,“The better the experience is for the child, the better the experience is for the family. It is all about trust. When the child, and family, have a good experience the first time, when you come back to intervene again, you’ve developed trust.”

Cameirao has been an advocate for Buzzy, and together with other Buzzy champions, teaches staff about the benefits of the new tool, and how to use it with their patients, during regular nursing huddles. “Our staff is excited to use it,” she says. “We have even had requests from nurses to use it on labouring mothers when they start intravenous lines. It doesn’t matter how old you are – if you had a negative experience as a child, and have a fear of needles, that can stay with you for life.”

The hospital has been using Buzzy for two months and parents have already begun requesting Buzzy for future interventions after seeing it work with their child. “Any experience with Buzzy so far has been very, very good,” Cameirao says.

When Connie Raschella’s two-year-old daughter, Keeva, required an intravenous line, she was relieved the hospital had Buzzy on hand. “My daughter was getting really fussy and when Julie came by with Buzzy, Keeva was just delighted with it,” she says. “She was saying ‘buzz’ and touching it; it was a huge distraction and she didn’t notice what the nurses were doing.” Raschella, who recently donated a television to the hospital’s childbirth and children’s centre, says Buzzy helped create a positive experience for her daughter. “I was so happy that she could have that little comfort. For us it was a lifesaver in a way.”

The use of Buzzy is only the latest of a number of child-focused initiatives led by Atkinson and the paediatric team. The hospital also offers a Dr. Bear pre-admission surgical program, which prepares four to 12 year olds and their families psychologically and emotionally for their surgical experience. “This program, along with hospital tours for local grade one classes, helps decrease stresses associated with hospitalization, by familiarizing the child and family with the hospital environment in a non-threatening way,” Atkinson explains.

The childbirth and children’s centre also includes a playroom for kids, as well as televisions, DVDs and games to help create a positive environment for young patients. For more information about Markham Stouffville Hospital’s paediatric programs, visit www.msh.on.ca


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