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by Janene Mascarella


You hate lying to your child when he fearfully asks, "Is it going to hurt?" as the nurse prepares to give him a shot.

But if your child happens to be at New York Hospital Queens, you don't have to fib, thanks to their recently introduced "ouchless" program that uses LMX-4 — a topical numbing creme applied to the skin to take the sting out of needles.

"We wanted to reduce or eliminate pain as much as possible," explains Joseph J. Abularrage, M.D., chairman of the Department of Pediatrics, who created the program and who used himself as a guinea pig! The kids love the cream, he reports. “Children who were totally terrified of getting blood drawn all of a sudden couldn't feel anything." But the consideration toward children did not stop there. The "ouchless" program was just the beginning of an even bigger initiative. Parents’ and kids’ reactions to the “ouchless” approach got Dr. Abularrage thinking of other ways he could make the hospital kinder for children.

And with that, the Care With Kindness program kicked off. Dr. Abularrage created a committee, and with weekly meetings the team rallied many of the other departments in the hospital, urging staff to think about ways to make the entire institution as kid-friendly as possible. They revamped several areas — from the hospital menu trays (once dull, now restaurant-style fun), to room temperatures (making sure it's comfortable at all times) and lighting (re-wiring so parents can dim or turn off the lights at night). If a young emergency room patient needs to be admitted, they are now transported super-fast — in under 30 minutes.

A hospital stay can be scary and confusing for both parents and children and the Care With Kindness program addressed that in two ways. First, they "scripted" and gave actual business cards to all staff members entering a patient's room. "They walk in, introduce themselves, give their name, what department they're from, explain why they are visiting, and leave the card with a phone number," Dr. Abularrage explains. Second, the hospital produced a video to explain the basics — how to work the bed, the call bell, who to call. Dr. Abularrage and his team also extended visiting hours to 24 hours and are committed to do all they can to serve up service with a smile. "Any person, who goes into a room, no matter who they are, will ask, ‘Is there anything I can do for you?’" Even once patients are discharged, followup phone calls are made two days later. For Dr. Abularrage, the whole idea comes from a good old-fashioned notion — to be kind to kids. "I live in Queens, I brought up my children in Queens. It's a good thing for Queens,” he says.

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