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The work of improving health and health care goes far beyond the work of providers. Meet an 8th-grade student who had an idea to make young patients less afraid of an MRI.
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A Change Agent in 8th Grade: Student Creates Short Video to Help Kids

By IHI Open School | Monday, May 2, 2016

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Shai Mann-Robison, 14, made a video out of LEGO blocks to show kids what an MRI is like.

Shai Mann-Robison, 14, is a typical 8th grader in many ways. He likes reading, listening to music, and playing soccer on his school’s team in Watertown, Massachusetts.

But Shai knows more about health care than the typical 8th grader. He has severe hemophilia A, a lot of allergies, and asthma.  

“I’ve been really lucky to get great care from a specialized team of doctors, nurses, and social workers who help keep me healthy,” Shai says. “I also have a wonderful family and a community of people with bleeding disorders. Because of them, I am more than healthy; I am in a position to give back. And by helping others, I’m helping build the community that supports me.”

Shai created a short video with LEGO blocks about getting an MRI that caught the eye of the IHI Open School team as a great example of what young people and patients can contribute to health care improvement.

“I decided to make the video bright, and happy,” Shai says. “I had characters wave, high-five, and put fun music in the background to put kids at ease. “

We asked Shai a few questions about the video he created — and how his own experiences with health care motivated him to improve communication with pediatric patients.  

IHI Open School: Why did you decide to create the video?

Shai Mann-Robison: I liked the idea of showing kids that the MRI isn’t a scary thing. One day you can be a regular kid and then you can get hurt, or need medicine, or end up in a wheelchair. You are still the same person — the medicine or chair doesn’t really change you— but kids don’t always know that until it happens to them.

OS: Was there an experience in your own life that prompted the idea?

Shai: Because of my hemophilia, I’ve had a lot of scans, like CT scans, ultrasounds, and X-rays. And my mom had had an MRI, so she could tell me why it might be scary for a kid.

OS: How did you create the video?

Shai:  I did the work in two stages — planning and then actually making the video. If I had designed the video for doctors, it would have been more like a documentary, and more factual. If it had been designed for parents, it would have been more realistic, to give them an idea of what the MRI looks like, and what the parents can do to help their kids. But because kids are the ones getting the scary scan, I decided to focus the video on what kids need.

To do that, I created a couple of personas, or sample kids who might watch my video. I made sure to include a range of ethnicities, so that everyone could relate to the characters in the video. And I decided not to have any talking in the video, so that kids who don’t speak English could understand it.

To make the video, I built a set out of LEGOs, set up the lighting, and took 561 pictures of the action. I then ran the pictures through a program called Zeitraffer, an app which creates stop-motion videos from a sequence of photos. Next, I edited the footage and added music to the background. All told, it took about 12 hours: six hours of design and about six hours to make the video and upload it.

OS: Why do you think it’s valuable for children to educate other children?

Shai: Kids listen best to other kids. I should know! I was playing touch football, and I got a bleed in my hip. I was stuck on the couch for a couple of weeks and on crutches for a month. My mom, my dad, my hematologist, and my nurse practitioner talked to me about how risky it was to play football with a bleeding disorder. But what they said went in one ear and out the other. I was sure I wouldn’t get hurt. When I ran into an older teen who also has hemophilia, he saw my crutches and I told him the story. He said, ‘Wow, that was not smart!’ And for the first time, I realized how risky my choice was.

Kids supporting each other creates a web of trust. For example, kids my age can teach younger kids who are scared of needles how to self-infuse. And adults can help us. Adults can support kids in building those webs of trust and making the webs stronger.

OS: What do you hope this video achieves?

Shai: I want this video to help kids who will get or are getting an MRI scan be less afraid of the scan. Even more than that, I hope to help kids around the world, not just close to home. I want to show kids that they can take charge and help other kids, they don’t have to just let the adults do the work. Kids can help each other be healthy!

OS: Have you received any feedback about the video?

Shai: Yes. I have received TONS of feedback! I love feedback because it tells me what I'm doing right, what I should change, and what I should start doing. I also love how this video is letting people open up and tell stories about their experiences. One of my teachers stopped me in the hall to tell me a story about her child’s traumatic MRI.   She said that she wished she’d had a video that could offer her some reassurance.

What’s really exciting is that some people are asking me to make more videos! A pediatrician requested me to make one of blood draws and also a version of the MRI video for kids with impaired vision. If you have any suggestions for me, please let me know at: shai.kidvideo@gmail.com.

Learn more about patient-centered communication in PFC 101: Dignity and Respect and become a leader in your own health system with L 101: Becoming a Leader in Health Care.

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