How to Prepare Your Child for a Hospital Visit
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How to Prepare Your Child for a Hospital Visit

 

One of the biggest questions coming from parents and caregivers is, “How can I support my child through this experience?” Each child is his/her own unique person and will respond to medical experiences in his/her own way. However, there are a few universal concerns that stand out in children at different ages. We, as Child Life Specialists, have compiled a list of ways to appropriately support your child ​during the hospital stay in each stage of life.

  • Worries

    • Unfamiliar environment
    • Fear of strangers
    • Pain
    • Interrupted routines
    • Separation from family

    Preparation

    • Prepare yourself
    • Be main source of comfort for child
    • Stick to routines
    • Bring favorite stuffed animal, pacifier, blanket

    Support

    • Sing lullabies
    • Hold/rock infant
    • Stroke face, arms or legs
    • Talk in soothing tones
    • Provide comfort items
    • Provide items your infant can watch (bubbles, mobiles, mirrors, crib toys)
    • Shake rattles

    Medical play

    • Let infants explore (mouthing, grasping, touching) and play with safe, real medical equipment
    • Peek-a-boo with doctor hats and masks
    • Letting your infant watch you play with medical equipment
  • Worries

    • Anxiety (separation from family, unfamiliar environment, strangers)
    • Loss of independence
    • Pain (fear of needles and medical equipment)

    Preparation

    • Read about hospitals and talk to your child one or two days prior to the visit
    • Play with doctor kits and explain things in a simple way
    • Assure child you will be with him/her as much as possible

    Support

    • Blow bubbles, sing songs
    • Read books, sound books
    • Hold and comfort child
    • Provide comfort items from home

    Medical play

    • Peek-a-boo with doctor hats and masks
    • Let child explore and play with appropriate medical equipment
    • Water play with syringes in bathtub
  • Worries

    • Pain (fear of needles and medical equipment)
    • Seeing procedures as punishment
    • Fear of bodily harm
    • Separation from family
    • Confusion about being in hospital

    Preparation

    • Talk in simple words about going to the hospital a few days before visit
    • Explain the visit is to help make him/her feel better, not because of something he/she did wrong
    • Read books about going to hospital
    • Give child time to ask questions and show understanding

    Support

    • Sing songs, blow bubbles
    • Read sound books
    • Watch glitter wand
    • Provide comfort items
    • Talk about some of your child’s favorite things

    Medical play

    • Make medical collages with things found in hospital (bandages, gauze, tongue depressors, cotton balls, etc.)
    • Play and explore with medical equipment and dolls (painting and water play with syringes)
  • Worries

    • Loss of privacy and independence
    • Pain
    • Fear of harm to his/her body
    • Fear of death

    Preparation

    • Begin discussions about hospital visit 1-2 weeks before date of visit
    • Let child pack bag for time in hospital
    • Encourage child to talk about feelings and worries to you and staff at hospital
    • Read books about going to hospital
    • Talk about what child may see and feel while in hospital. Always be honest!
    • Explain why he/she needs to go to the hospital (what the surgery or other procedures are for)

    Support

    • I Spy books
    • Handheld games
    • Talk about favorite things (vacation, activity, school)
    • Practice slow, deep-breathing and relaxing
    • Listen to favorite music
    • Squeeze stress ball or hold someone’s hand

    Medical play

    • Make artwork with medical materials (syringe painting)
    • Write story or poem about going to the hospital
    • Play and explore with appropriate, real medical equipment and dolls
  • Worries

    • Loss of privacy and independence
    • Separation from friends
    • Body image issues

    Preparation

    • Include teen in making decisions about surgery or hospital stay, when appropriate
    • Ask his/her opinion
    • Read books or articles about hospital
    • Encourage teen to think about questions and concerns and write them down

    Support

    • Respect his/her privacy
    • Encourage teen to keep in touch with friends
    • Play handheld games
    • Talk with teen about school, friends, etc.
    • Practice deep, slow breathing and relaxing body
    • Squeeze stress ball or hold someone’s hand
    • Listen to favorite music or watch movies

    Medical play

    • Explore and ask questions about medical equipment
    • Create artwork inspired by the hospital experience (can also use medical equipment)
    • Write songs, poems, stories about hospital