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Preparing your Child for a Stay in Hospital

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Hospitals can be strange, frightening places for children. Being sick or in pain can be so upsetting for them. You might feel helpless, but there are things you can do to comfort your child in the case of a forthcoming stay in hospital. Your child should know what to expect and what they may have to undergo.

We hope you never have to see your child in hospital, but here is some useful advice if you do find yourself in this situation:

Before they get to the Hospital


Talk about hospital as a cheerful place where doctors and nurses help to make people better.


Explain to your child why he/ she is being admitted to hospital.


Reassure your child that you will be there as much as possible and that their stay in hospital will be temporary


Encourage your child to ask questions and express feelings.


If you have arranged to stay overnight the hospital tell your child and if not, reassure him/ her that you will visit frequently.


Involve your child in packing their bag for the hospital stay; make sure to include their favourite toy, special teddy bear or security blanket.


Infection control is vitally important in hospitals so it is a good idea to boil wash any soft toy or security blanket and pack it in a ziplock bag.


Older children and teens should be encouraged to talk about going to hospital as they may give the impression that they understand more than they do.

Overnight Hospital Stays

In almost all hospitals are in-patients, parents / carers are allowed and encouraged to stay with the child overnight – hospitals will make provision for this. Talk to the hospital staff beforehand if possible, to be clear about the arrangements and what will happen. In some hospitals there can be a designated parent / day room to take a break away from the ward.

Before the Procedure

Before they are brought to the operating theatre they may have some special cream rubbed on to numb the skin where the needle for the anaesthetic goes, so that it won’t hurt as much. Alternatively, they may be asked to breathe in some special gas to make them sleepy. Whether it is routine for a parent or carer to go with the child into the anaesthetic room depends on the hospital. Find out well in advance what their policy is by asking the Nurse in Charge or Anaesthetist. Your child will spend time in the recovery area. When he/she returns to the ward he/she needs to rest and sleep as much as possible to aid recovery. Nurses keep a close eye on patients recovering from an operation and they will tell you when it is safe for them to drink, sit up, eat or go to the bathroom.

Keeping your Child Calm during medical examinations or injections.

Whenever possible you should accompany your child to medical examinations, take along his / her favourite toy. Any form of restraint should be avoided eg: holding the child with force. Experienced doctors and nurses will apply various established strategies of distraction in order to help the child overcome his / her fears. Make use of the play specialist and or CHI play volunteer,where possible, who will use dolls and story-telling to help prepare your child.

Coming home from the hospital


Before leaving the hospital, make sure you know all about your child's aftercare.


Write down instructions about food, medicine etc.


Check the date and time of your child's follow-up appointments.


Don't worry if your child is difficult and demanding on their return home: a child will usually go through a re- adjustment period but this will pass.


Encourage you child to talk about his/her experience in hospital and listen carefully to what they have to say. Constantly reassure your child of your love and care.


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