Children and Hospital

Accessing your Medical Records

The experience of going into hospital can be daunting for anyone, but even more so for a child. However, you can help to make the whole experience less traumatic for your child by preparing both them – and you – for their visit in advance.

Before you go

Talking to your child about the hospital visit before you go will help them to become comfortable with the idea of going into hospital and give them a chance to ask any questions they may have.  

Explain to your child why he/she is being admitted to hospital and what will happen – emphasise that it will only be a temporary stay. Give as much information as you think your child can understand for their age:

  • For young children, use simple terms – you may need to repeat what you tell them a number of times and reassure them that they will be returning home. Try playing ‘doctors and nurses’ with young children to help them understand what will happen when they go to hospital – always end the game happily with the child returning home to the family.
  • Older children may require further information, and can be told a few weeks in advance to give them time to ask any questions they may have. Involve the child in packing for hospital.
  • Teenagers should be informed about their condition and included in making decisions about their care. Encourage teenagers to talk about going to hospital as they may give the impression that they understand more than they do.

Be open with your child and answer questions truthfully– let them know if something is likely to hurt, or if they will be staying in hospital for a long time. Don’t mislead your child, e.g., by telling them something won’t hurt if it will – this will only result in your child losing trust in you.

What to take?

For an overnight stay, your child will need:

  • Nightclothes and dressing gown
  • Slippers or socks and shoes
  • Toiletries – toothbrush and toothpaste, hairbrush/comb, shampoo, face cloth, soap and towels
  • Nappies – for babies/younger children
  • Clothes for the day
  • A favourite toy and simple books or games (children’s wards normally provide toys and games, but it will help the child to feel more comfortable if they have a few favourite items from home).

When at the hospital

You can help care for your child while at the hospital, doing everything you would normally do at home – such as washing and dressing your child, helping to the toilet, nappy changing, etc.

Inform the staff of anything they may need to know about your child: if there’s anything she/he can’t eat or drink for example, or if they have a special name or phrase for anything, e.g., for naming body parts or for asking to go to the toilet.

Do not give food or drinks to your child without checking with the nursing staff first.

Write down any questions you may have for the doctor and make a note of any information you are given – it is easy to forget things if you are feeling anxious or have lots of things to remember.  

Some hospitals provide accommodation for parents to stay overnight – there will normally be a charge if you wish to use this service, and you should contact the hospital in advance to check availability. Alternatively, you may be allowed to stay on the ward overnight – the hospital may provide camp-beds for parents wishing to stay next to their child.

Going home

Before you leave, make sure you are clear about your child’s after-care – including their medication and any dietary requirements. Make any follow-up appointments your child needs before you leave the hospital.

Parents can often have difficulties with children who have recently returned home from hospital – e.g., the child may become more babyish in their behaviour and have problems going to bed at night. This is quite normal and will usually pass quite quickly if the child receives lots of love and support.

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