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Preparing Your Child for a Procedure

Talking to your child about a procedure

A procedure can be a stressful event at any age, but it can be especially frightening and overwhelming for a child. We encourage families to tell their children why they are going to the hospital, and what will happen during their hospital stay. Providing your child with this information is very important because children who are well prepared for their hospital experience cope better and recover more quickly than those who have not been prepared.

We understand that preparing a child for a procedure can be difficult for parents. Along with feeling concern for your child’s health, it is common to worry about how you will talk with your child about the upcoming event. Here are some helpful tips:

  • Wait until just a day or two before the procedure to tell very young children about going to the hospital.
  • Explain why the procedure is needed. Reassure your child that they did nothing wrong to cause this. Young children often think going to the hospital is a punishment for something they did wrong.
  • Give simple, honest explanations about what will happen before, during and after a procedure.
  • Stress that he or she will be asleep when the procedure takes place. It is usually best not to give a detailed explanation of the procedure or repair that takes place after the child is asleep. For example, simply stating, “the doctor will fix your leg” or “the doctor will take out your tonsils” is often all that is necessary.
  • Use nonthreatening words, such as “make a small opening” instead of “cut,” or “feel a small pinch” instead of “hurt.”
  • Let your child know that you will not be able to be in the procedure room with him or her during the procedure, but that he or she will be well cared for by the doctors and nurses. Emphasize that you will be nearby and reunited soon after the procedure.
  • Mention possible discomfort your child may feel after the procedure.
  • Encourage your child to ask questions.
  • Use educational materials, such as “doctor toys,” dolls and books about the hospital to give your child an opportunity to play or talk out his or her feelings.
  • Allow your child the opportunity to make some choices, such as what toy to bring to the hospital or what he or she would like to wear that day. This can really make a difference!Children feel better when they have some control overwhat is happening.

Rush's program to prepare children for a procedure

Rush offers a special program to help you and your child prepare for a procedure. This free program is held weekly and is designed for parents and future pediatric patients. The program includes a tour of the procedure room areas, admitting and pediatric unit. In addition to seeing areas they will be visiting, the program gives children the opportunity to see and handle some of the medical equipment doctors and nurses will use to care for them. Please call Rush's Child Life Services at (312) 942-7842 to register for the tour or speak to someone about preparing your child for a procedure.

Make child care arrangements for your other children

Please make child care arrangements for your other children. If your child is having an outpatient procedure, plan on the child recovering in the procedural area for approximately one to three hours after the procedure is over.

About medications

Sedation medications are used (as necessary) to reduce anxiety in the child before going to the procedure room. The medications are administered as painlessly as possible. Oral medications are used instead of injections, when possible. You will have the opportunity to discuss preoperative sedation with your anesthesiologist in the holding area before the procedure.

Where to wait during your child's procedure

While your child is in procedure, you can wait in the Smith Family Lounge on the floor where child’s procedure is taking place. Please proceed to the Smith Family Lounge after your child goes into the procedure room, check in with the volunteer and get a pager so you may be reached as soon as the procedure is complete. You will be called to be with your child soon after he or she awakens from the anesthesia.

Visiting and spending the night with your child

For children who stay in the hospital after a procedure, visiting hours are from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Parents may visit at any time, but only one parent may sleep at the bedside. Healthy siblings are permitted to visit during regular visiting hours.

Elective procedures

If your child becomes ill prior to a procedure, the procedure may need to be canceled. Please call your surgeon's office if the child experiences fever, cough, runny nose or other symptoms of illness the week before the surgery.

Remember to follow doctor's orders about drinking and eating

You will receive a call from the hospital the day before your child’s procedure to confirm the time of the procedure and inform you of the time to stop feeding your child. Follow the feeding instructions exactly, because the procedure may be canceled if the child has had something to eat or drink close to the time of the procedure.