Every day you strive to care for your little ones as best as possible. Unfortunately, sometimes it is impossible to avoid a tonsillectomy, birthmark removal, or other procedure, and the child has to be hospitalised. What can you do to reduce anxiety and calm the child’s nerves?
Many adults feel uneasy at the very sight of a doctor, let alone when they are admitted to hospital. You can imagine how stressed a child is in such situations. That is why it is important to know what to do to ensure that the child feels safe and comfortable during their hospitalisation.
A well-prepared little patient
In many cases, a hospital stay can be planned in advance if the child needs to have a specific surgery. Hospitalisation may involve ENT treatments such as a tonsillectomy or middle ear ventilation drainage, or dermatological procedures such as birthmark removal. A hospital stay is also required in the case of general paediatric surgery, including procedures for hernias, appendicitis, or phimosis, and those for treating defects and disorders of the urinary tract.
A child that has never been hospitalised before doesn’t know what to expect and may be afraid. That is why it is important to prepare them appropriately. You should start by explaining that a hospital stay is not a punishment and that the child needs it to be healthy. “The parents should tell their little one what they should expect. This is very important if specialist examinations are necessary or if a procedure will be performed under anaesthesia,” emphasises Ewa Gęszka, MD, anaesthesiologist at the Medicover Hospital. The little patient’s age should be taken into consideration. It’s better to talk to an older child, although playing with a younger child may be a better idea – you can give an injection to a teddy bear or watch a cartoon with your child in which the characters are admitted to hospital. Try to make it look like an adventure during which the child will discover a new place and meet new people.
It is crucial that you don’t wait until the last moment to tell your child about their hospitalisation. If you do it well in advance, the child will have some time to come to terms with everything and ask questions. If you surprise your child, they may react much more nervously. Similarly, don’t forget to talk to your child when hospitalisation is unexpected, for example due to head trauma, a burn, a dislocation, or a fracture. Even then you need to find some time to explain what is going on and, most importantly, to reassure them everything is OK. This will make the child feel safer.
Mum, dad, calm down…
When you’re in the hospital with your child, see to it that you’re in a good mood. Bringing along the right items will make the stay at the unit more pleasurable. Apart from the everyday necessities, you should also bring along the child’s favourite pillow or blanket and toy – preferably not a loud one that will disturb other patients.
Please remember that the presence of a parent or guardian is very important, as it makes the child feel safe. “To minimise hospitalisation-related stress, we allow parents to accompany their children throughout their stay,” says Ewa Gęszka, MD, anaesthesiologist at the Medicover Hospital. “They are together with their children even during preparations for procedures. They only leave their little ones with the medical personnel for the surgery and return immediately when it is over. They will also be present when the child wakes up, so that the first thing the child sees is the face of their parent or guardian,” she adds.
The role of the personnel is equally important, especially that of the nurses who care for the little patients. The first impression that the child has of the clinic often depends on them. They help children adapt to the new environment and prepare for procedures – but that is not all, as they often answer questions about the hospital stay.
Parents often ask about the condition of the little one and about the treatment methods, which is why it is important for them to constantly be in touch with the personal physician and to be able to ask any questions they may have. Let’s remember that the little patient also has the right to know what is happening to them. If the child asks, we should answer. However, please remember not to scare the little one. If you don’t know how to talk to your child about the disease or examinations, please consult a doctor or ask for the assistance of a psychologist.
A hospital stay is not a pleasant experience for a child or their parents. Remember that the child’s reaction largely depends on how you behave. “This is something we make the parents aware of when their children are staying at the paediatric unit for planned surgeries, but also in the case of emergencies,” summarises Monika Lech, MD, paediatrician at the Medicover Hospital. If you keep your emotions at bay, the little patient will also be calmer and hospitalisation will be less stressful.