UCLA Medical Center helps kids be less afraid of the ER, doctor


"I know there's doctors, paramedics, firemen, police officers," he said.

They're all friends now, but a few weeks ago the staff was all strangers. He cut his head on a coffee table corner and his mom brought him in.

"There's always a little bit of apprehension, what's going to happen to me, what are they going to do to me," said Carmen Pinto, Julian's mother.

Fortunately for her son, the staff at UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica are working on creating a so-called "ouchless ER" experience for kids.

"It's scary when they're hurt or sick and so we are trying to change the environment and the way that we practice medicine so that we can make it as comfortable and friendly an experience as possible for them," said ER physician Dr. Lisa Dabby.

The first step: Establish a rapport with young patients. Child life specialist Katie Kolbeck greets them and explains what's going to happen in ways kids understand.

"Using these different tools that we have for medical play allows them a little bit of control in the situation and helps them understand why the doctors and nurses are doing what they're doing," said Kolbeck.

Dabby also implements "ouchless" medicine into her practice.

"We are doing everything from trying to use glue instead of stitches, trying to give oral medications when we can instead of poking, we have a new nasal atomizer device to administer medication in the nose, instead of a poke," said Dabby.

When you do have to poke, an ultrasound helps minimize them.

"So we use this tool to get a good look at the vein and we can get the IV on the very first stick," said Dabby.

While avoiding needles, understanding doctors and caring nurses make the ER more inviting for children, experts say parents also play a key role.

"Children are comforted by being around their parents, so if their parent is calm and there to hold them, I think that's the best advice I can give," said Dabby.

It was such an ouchless experience for the young Julian, he says someday he might even be a doctor.

"I was happy I felt better," he said.

Julian avoided stitches completely and is healing well. His mother said having the child life specialist also helped her manage her son's twin sister, who was also there for the long ER visit.

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