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Taking a shot on Buzzy®

Amanda Grant, 11, likes a lot of things. Soccer. Basketball. Volleyball. She’s a star on her track and cross-country teams. She’s in choir. She plays cello and will soon begin bassoon lessons.

But one thing she doesn’t like: getting shots at the doctor.

“I just don’t like things going in my leg,” says Amanda, a tall, active tween who lives in North Fargo with her mom, Julie, dad Curt and 8-year-old brother Benson.

Escape artist

Three years ago at her 9-year checkup with Dr. Patrick Welle at Sanford Children’s, Amanda attempted to escape the room when her nurse said it was time for her vaccinations and immunizations.

“We love Dr. Welle, but she was so scared of the shots,” says Amanda’s mom, Julie.

That’s when Sanford Child Life Specialist, Kay Mjolsness, stepped in the next time Amanda was due for shots. Child life specialists like Kay are available to help children cope with procedures and treatments at Sanford Children’s using distraction techniques, props and other objects to make kids more comfortable.

Making a big buzz

Kay had a plan for Amanda, which included Buzzy ®, a personal pain control device that looks like a bee, but definitely doesn’t sting like one. In fact, the cooling mechanism in Buzzy® creates a numbing effect at the site of the shot.

“Basically it’s a little plastic bee,” says Kay, who frequently uses Buzzy® for patients anxious about a procedure. “You turn it on and the vibration confuses the nerves.”

Buzzy®’s wings are ice. “The combo of the two helps so the child doesn’t notice the poke so much,” says Kay. “You can use them for lab and IV starts, immunizations, and even wart removals. Buzzy® can help a lot of things, and a lot of different ages.” Many adults ask for the device as well.

Drs. of distraction

Kay, who has worked for 30 years at Sanford says the goal of her work is to help distract kids and teach them how to cope. All Child Life Specialists at Sanford have a four-year college degree in Child Development, Early Child Education, Psychology or a combination of the three. Many are certified as Child Life Specialists.

“Parents are nervous, too, about their child getting the pokes. They need to concentrate on their child and keeping them calm, and they’ll get through it much better. The distraction can be distracting for the parents, too,” says Kay.

Families can ask for assistance from a Child Life Specialist for many reasons. They can help kids with their breathing to help calm them down and relax their muscles, for example. “When children are younger and they can’t explain breathing techniques, we bring in bubbles or a pinwheel, which are fun and also relaxing,” says Kay.

Kay says there’s a lot that parents and guardians can do to prepare their children – and themselves – about medical procedures.

“The best thing is to stay calm and be honest with their child. Some kids need to know in advance so they can process the information,” says Kay.

Other tips to alleviate doctor visit anxiety:

  • Play with a doctor kit
  • Role play with getting shots with a doll or stuffed animal
  • Tell children in simple words what’s going to happen.
  • Praise the child afterwards, but “Be specific,” says Kay. “Like you held still really well, or thanks for squeezing my hand. You did a great job counting to ten. Nice specific things really help children go through the process.”
  • A big relief

    Buzzy® is just one of the distraction techniques child life offers to help ease your child’s fears. In Amanda’s case, it made all the difference.

    “It kinda numbs it and I don’t feel the shot as much. It feels just a little like a pinch,” she says. “I’m not so scared anymore. Just a little bit.”

    As for parents of children who are scared of needles, Buzzy® has decreased their own anxiety of getting their child prepared for the procedure.

    “Buzzy has made it a lot easier for us to go in and for her to get shots. As a mom, it makes such a difference. It really works wonders,” says Julie.

    Posted Date: June 2013