Preparing for your child's surgery | Children's Surgery Center | UC Davis Children's Hospital

Preparing for your child’s surgery

Our child life specialists are here to help minimize the stress and anxiety of hospitalization and to strengthen the coping skills of you, your child and other family members, both before and after surgical treatment.

  • Ginger, a child life support specialist uses medical play to demonstrate a procedure with patient

    Medical play

    The Children’s Surgery Center has a child life specialist staffed solely to help your child throughout pre-op and then during recovery. A child life specialist may use medical play with stuffed animals and actual medical equipment to explain the procedures and surgery that the child is about to undergo. This helps to provide understanding, reassurance and emotional support to the child as well as to the family.

  • Two brothers reading in the surgery center play area

    Sibling and family support

    The child life specialist may also visit with siblings or other family members to help them understand the hospital environment and ease the stress of being in an unfamiliar environment. Hospitalization and all that it entails can be stressful on your child as well as the entire family.

    Our hospital coloring and activity book is designed to help ease your child’s hospital experience and may be helpful to all family members. 

    Download our coloring book
  • Zeebee, our facility dog for the Children's Surgery Center, with a child life specialist

    Facility dogs provide comfort to recovering patients

    Our facility dogs are expertly trained to help comfort and normalize the experience of children and teens during post-surgical recovery and hospitalization, if required. The facility dogs at UC Davis Children’s Hospital were trained and provided free of charge to the child life specialist handlers from Canine Companions for Independence. Zeebee is our facility dog for the Children’s Surgery Center.

    Explore all child life services
What to expect with surgery

Mom with daughter walking to reception area
Reception area and check-in desk at the Children’s Surgery Center.

When you arrive, go to the reception area. You will meet with administrative staff who will help you begin the check-in process.

You will need to bring:

  • A valid form of identification: U.S. driver’s license, a DMV identification card, U.S. passport, or U.S. military identification card
  • Your UC Davis Health insurance card

You will:

  • Fill out paperwork upon arrival
  • Pay your co-pay at this time

Your child will receive the necessary wristbands: two for identification and security and one for allergies, if necessary.

Young patient in the Children’s Surgery Center waiting room
The waiting room of the Children’s Surgery Center.

After you’ve checked in, you and your child can sit in the large waiting room. The waiting room has plenty of activities, books and toys, and even an electronic game table, to occupy and distract your child, while allowing you to all sit and spend some time together before the procedure.

The waiting room will also be available for you while your child is undergoing surgery. When it’s time, a registered nurse or child life specialist will find you in the waiting room and take both of you to a pre-op room.

Pediatric patient and mom meeting with the anesthiologist
Family meeting with the pediatric anesthesiologist before surgery.

When it’s time to get ready for surgery, you and your child will meet a number of specialists in your room who will help prepare both of you in different ways.

Pre-op nurse

The pre-op nurse will check your child’s vital signs (blood pressure, temperature, respiration rate, pulse, etc.), do a physical assessment and make the proper notations on the chart.

Child life specialist

A child life specialist will help prepare your child with procedural play exercises, to help him or her understand what will happen and make the process as positive as possible.

Pediatric anesthesiologist 

The pediatric anesthesiologist will discuss the anesthesia process with you and your child including what anesthesia will do, how it will be administered, and how long your child may be affected by it after the treatment. You’ll discuss the possible need for medication, or “happy juice,” to help your child to relax before the anesthesia is administered. The anesthesiologist will accompany your child into the operating room for the duration of their treatment.

Operating room nurse

The operating room nurse will introduce himself or herself and confirm surgery.


The surgeon will also introduce himself or herself and answer any questions you have about the surgery.

Surgical team with patient in the surgery room
Surgical team with patient in an operating room preparing for surgery.

You can accompany your child as far as the entrance to the operating room hallway. You can then return to the waiting room. Plan to stay for the duration; bring a book, music or a movie to pass the time.

If you need food or coffee, we recommend getting some right after your child has gone into the operating room, so that you are available when the surgeon comes out to discuss how your child’s surgery went.

View hospital amenities for families and visitors

Patient in post-surgery recovery room with nurse
Patient in recovery room with nurse post-surgery.

After the surgery, you can meet your child in the recovery room. Here, your child will be regularly examined by the nursing staff and physicians to ensure that your child is comfortable and that recovery is continuing as it should. Your child will remain in the recovery room until they are recovered from the anesthesia and discharged to go home; if admission to the hospital is required, your child will go to a regular hospital bed when it is available.

If an overnight admission to the hospital is necessary, a parent or guardian is encouraged to stay overnight. Each room is equipped with a chair that will turn into a bed for an overnight stay. If you are planning to stay with your child overnight, you should bring appropriate overnight supplies, such as extra clothing and a toothbrush and toothpaste.

Before leaving the Children’s Surgery Center, your child will be examined by an anesthesiologist. If your child is being discharged from the recovery room, you will be provided with all the information you need, such as discharge instructions and contact phone numbers for both day and overnight, for a continued, safe recuperation at home.

Getting prepared

Reach out to us

If your child is especially anxious and would benefit from a pre-operative virtual tour led by a certified child life specialist, please feel free to reach out to one of our Children’s Surgery Center child life specialists.

Getting in touch with us

Contact us or make a referral

For referring physicians from other facilities, please call our patient referrals and transfer phone number for assistance with pediatric surgical services. 

We also provide pediatric telehealth consultations for physicians caring for children throughout Northern California who may need the specialized surgical services offered by the Children’s Surgery Center.

Children’s Surgery Center

4301 X Street
Sacramento, CA 95817

The Children’s Surgery Center is located within UC Davis Children’s Hospital.

View map and directions

For physician referrals or appointments


To see one of our specialists, a referral is required from your child’s primary care physician.

For the hospital 24-hour operator


For physician telehealth consultations