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Youth Volunteer Leads Fundraiser for Tools to Reduce Patient Pain

Can volunteers help essential hospitals afford what might be considered nonessential equipment to enhance patients’ recovery? The answer is yes for University Medical Center of Southern Nevada (UMC), where one teenager started a fundraiser that quickly led to aid for some of the hospitals’ most pained patients.

In the pediatric burn unit at UMC, care strategy includes limiting pain medications so these young patients do not develop high tolerances or other side effects. Instead, the care team focuses on diversion techniques to distract patients from what can be extreme pain.

The hospital’s child life specialists work specifically with these patients and their families to explain procedures, help them feel safe and comfortable, and use diversion techniques during painful procedures, such as changing dressings. These techniques include showing movies on tablet computers, playing music, displaying interesting visuals on the walls and ceiling, and more.

Quickly, staff recognized that the sound from portable devices was often difficult for patients to hear, limiting the success of these activities as diversions from pain.

From Limitation to Solution

Staff could not put scarce financial resources toward equipment not directly related to effectively treating burns. Zachary Ching, a 17-year-old volunteer in the pediatric burn unit, understood the challenge and started a fundraiser for one solution: Bluetooth speakers to amplify the sounds of patients’ favorite music or movies.

Ching worked directly with Danita Cohen, the hospital’s executive director of strategic development and marketing. She helped publicize his GoFundMe.com campaign to hospital staff and via social media. The local newspaper even wrote about the fundraising effort. Within weeks, Ching had surpassed his goal of $1,900.

Cohen said staff immediately saw the heart of the matter: helping these patients focus on something other than the treatments and procedures necessary for their recovery. But, she said, staff also were touched that a teenager cared so deeply for others and aligned at such a young age with the hospital’s mission – to care for vulnerable people.

Now, Cohen is working on a plan to purchase and install the speakers, which will have locks to prevent theft. All in all, this has been a roughly two-month process from idea to funding goal. She expects the child life specialists to see an immediate bedside impact.

“This truly is the ‘caring’ part of caregiving,” she said.

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