Preparing for your child's hospital stay
What to expect when your child is admitted
When your child is admitted, the admitting nurse will ask you about your child’s health history, including past illnesses and allergic reactions to medications and food. The admitting nurse will measure your child’s height, weight, temperature, pulse and blood pressure. The nurse and physician will perform a general physical exam, which can sometimes include additional tests.
Communicating with your child about a hospital stay
Age determines how and when you tell your child about an upcoming hospital stay. Wait until a day or two before the hospital stay to tell a pre-school child because of his or her limited concept of time. Older children, however, should be given as much notice as possible. They should be encouraged to ask questions and participate in preparations.
Be honest. Answer all your child’s questions clearly and simply with age-appropriate information. You are the best judge of what your child can understand or is emotionally ready to handle. Typically, a child wants to know why he or she has to go to the hospital, how long she or he will stay, where you will be during his or her stay and whether anything will hurt. In answering these questions, avoid negative statements or denial. For instance, if pain is likely, emphasize that medicine will be given to make it feel better.
What if there is no time to prepare?
If your child is critically ill or injured, you may suddenly face this hospital experience with no time to prepare yourself or your child. We know that this is extremely stressful and confusing. We will do everything we can to help you and your child cope. Please remember:
- You are vital to your child as a source of reassurance, comfort and love. You also are an important advocate and spokesperson for your child.
- You are crucial to hospital staff as a source of information about your child’s health history and as a decision-maker in your child’s medical care.
- You may feel scared, angry, exhausted, frustrated, impatient, guilty, helpless and numb. It’s normal and okay to feel these emotions.
- You are not alone. We are here to help you, as well as your child. The hospital and emergency department has a team of social workers and patient navigators that can help support you and discuss resources available to you. Please let us know what you need.
What TO bring to the hospital
Clothes, toys and other favorite belongings
We will supply a hospital gown, but your child may feel more comfortable in clothes from home, such as a nightgown or pajamas, robe and slippers. You also may bring favorite belongings, such as toys, stuffed animals, photographs or a blanket. Please be sure to label personal property with your child’s name.
Please bring medications and/or a list of medications that your child is taking. After your child is admitted and the medications have been noted on his or her record, please take the medication home.
As long as your child is on a regular diet, family and friends are welcome to bring food from home. Ask your nurse where you can refrigerate and store your food. You are welcome to bring food from the cafeteria, located on the ground floor, to your child’s room.
What NOT to bring to the hospital
Latex (rubber) balloons
Though colorful and cheerful, these balloons can be a serious safety and health hazard for children and staff, including life-threatening allergic reactions. Mylar (shiny, metallic) balloons are permitted.
Non-medical electrical items
Check with your child’s nurse first before bringing radios, video games, curling irons or hair dryers to your child’s room.
If you cannot afford to replace an item, please do not bring it with your child.
More information about how to help your child and family prepare for being in the hospital
- How to prepare for the hospital
- How to help a child at home
- How to help a child at the hospital
- How to help a child in pain
- How to help a child take their medicine
- How to help a newborn
- How to help a preschooler
- How to help a school age child
- How to help a teenager
- How to help a toddler
- How to help an infant
- How to help siblings visit the PICU