Al Nas: Egypt’s Children’s Hospital Striving For Change

Egypt’s Al Nas hospital is a renowned entity focusing on every aspect of a child’s health. With the slogan of “The people for the people,” the hospital’s environment along with its staff operates every day with the intention of creating a welcoming home for patients. We sat down with Al Nas’ Child Life Specialist, Donia Hosny to learn more about the activities that the hospital offers and the facilities which work together to create a unique environment for its kids.

Working at Al Nas for over two years, Hosny described what being a Child Life Specialist means to her, “It’s everything to do with improving the overall patient experience. Part emotional support, part psycho-education; helping with pre and post-procedural support and creating a more child-friendly environment, overall.”

Located in Shubra El Kheima, north of Cairo, Al Nas opened its doors in Sep. 2019 and is often described as a leading cardiac hospital treating children suffering from congenital heart defects, in addition to providing all services to patients 100 percent free of charge.

The concept of free healthcare was sparked as Egypt saw a huge gap amongst people with varying socioeconomic statuses, where the affluent have greater access to opportunities unlike the less fortunate. The Asfour family who lay the foundations for this journey, a journey that was functionally realized through Al Joud Charity Foundation led by Mr. Mamdouh Abbas and Mr. Ayman Abbas, had a vision of creating equality among these various socioeconomic statuses, viewing the right to healthcare as a basic human right; creating the largest medical city in the region.

Aside from the hospital granting children care free of charge, one of the core aspects that Al Nas is known for is its holistic approach to treatment; focusing on every detail of the child’s care, not just the procedural elements, “We try to give it an all-encompassing view of the patient experience. Like with the child-friendly hospital environment, we’re always looking at what’s going to help reduce some of the anxiety this child is going to experience from all of this hospitalization.”

This mission is highlighted through the hospital’s efforts of generating different themes throughout the halls in hopes of creating a more child-friendly feel for the patients. Ranging from an underwater ICU theme to outer space-themed outpatients, the murals decked out in each corner of the hospital are made with a particular theme to help children feel more at home during their time at the hospital. Hosny elaborated on the thought process behind the themes, “All of these areas are created in a way intended to reflect the imagination of children. “This is all part of the efforts made to create a more child-friendly hospital, one that is more inviting in order to alleviate the anxiety associated with hospital admission, especially for a child.”

Apart from its colorful and welcoming halls, Al Nas hospital regularly sets up events and activities for its kids with the intention of uplifting spirits. This is seen through their monthly agreement for 2022 with Art Cafe, where Art Cafe hosts arts and crafts workshops that variate from painting to clay work to cardmaking.

The hospital also does major events around religious holidays such as Eid or the holy month of Ramadan. Bringing together Hamleys, TBS, and McDonald’s, Al Nas put on an event for the kids to highlight Eid. People donated gifts through Hamleys, TBS passed out Kahk to the families in attendance, and Mcdonald’s donated 100 meals for iftar. Hosny reiterated how activity-filled days are a vital aspect of what Al Nas constantly aims to do in order to engage and entertain the children and their families.

While Al Nas aims to create events that keep its patients entertained, it also has simple elements for when nothing is planned. The hospital’s daily activities for inpatient kids include a playroom, crafts, and board games.

Hosny also stressed how the feeling of creating a safe and welcoming environment really starts from the first moment the kids enter the hospital. “This is just a small thing, but for every kid that comes in, the first thing that they actually get is a toy or a gift of some sort. So this is something that we try to focus on, to help build that positive association for the kids and it does make a difference for them and for you to feel how these small things do help make a difference in their experience.”

Aside from delving into how these little things truly make a difference in the child’s mental health, the Child Life Specialist shared how her position facilitates a unique connection with the patients. “You’re meeting a child when they’re most vulnerable and it goes against everything you think a childhood experience should be; with all the poking, and the hospitalization, the kids go through so much. This creates a special kind of bond where you’re able to be just a small factor in alleviating the negative associations that they have with the hospital,” she said.

Hosny reflected on how that bond is reciprocated by the children, making every day on the job worth it, “It’s the appreciation that you feel from the kids themselves, from the parents that send you messages, who write you small notes when they’re leaving, thanking you for making a difference in their child’s stay and admission.”

One of Al Nas’ proudest moments is its miracle children that have against all odds made full recoveries. Mohamed who was born with a congenital heart defect, which required immediate intervention, and as he weighed under two kilos this made the intervention all the more difficult as doctors don’t typically perform these procedures when children are in this weight. This made it even more incredible that following a year, Mohamed had grown and is becoming a healthy boy without any complications. Also, Aseel was a special case, after bouncing through several hospital’s waiting lists, her parents came across Al Nas’ commercial and were able to admit her. Being born with a heart defect, she had to get several heart procedures however after the procedures and after staying in the ICU for six months, the girl has made a full recovery.

Through everything they do, Al Nas constantly hopes to eliminate the waitlist. Hosny emphasized how important a goal it is for the hospital, “There are still huge waitlists and of course, as a hospital that runs on donations, we need these donations to open more areas of the hospital so that we can admit a bigger number of kids.”

Hosny also explained why Al Nas in particular should be a place to consider for donation, “We want people to know that when you donate to the hospital, they’re donating to a hospital that tries to provide for a positive experience for kids in a multi-faceted way. We try to offer the highest and the most advanced healthcare, using the most advanced technology. We try to always make sure that their psychological well-being is taken care of. The more people have faith in us and donate, the more people we can help.”

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