Child Surgery: Taking the Stress Out


ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Parents never want to put their children in a scary situation, but when it’s for their health, sometimes they must. Ivanhoe has some tips on helping your kid through a hospital visit.

Whether it’s appendicitis, transplants, or fixing a birth defect, going to the hospital for surgery is scary for both child and parents. But pediatric surgeries are unavoidable sometimes.

“I think the most important thing is preparation. There’s always parents who are afraid to tell their kids that they’re having surgery, but it’s more important for them to know where they’re going and why they’re going there,” stated Ellen Earl, CCLS, Child Life Specialist, Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children.

Tell them the truth but avoid confusing medical terms. Use neutral, unemotional words and focus on how they’ll feel. Preschool-aged children should be told two days before the visit, but older children will likely want more time to process. Some hospitals offer a printable coloring book you can get online, which walks your younger child through the steps of surgery. They also recommend you bring items from home like a favorite toy or blanket for familiarity.

Earl continued, “That way when the child separates from their parent, it’s not a difficult separation because they have those items from home that are comforting for them.”

And, taking some stress out the of surgery.

Teens might feel a loss of independence and privacy when staying in the hospital. Let them pack their own belongings and include them in the decision making for their health care.

Contributors to this news report include: Hayley Hudson, Field Producer; and Roque Correa, Editor.

REPORT #2712

BACKGROUND: In the United States each year, millions of children undergo outpatient surgery. Most of these children will experience significant anxiety and pain. Behavioral preparation programs considered essential for effective preparation are no longer offered to most children and families in an outpatient surgery setting. And, what little preparation does occur is typically generic in nature, rather than tailored to unique characteristics of the child and family. Untreated anxiety and pain have significant implications for children’s short and long-term recovery and future interactions in the medical environment. The anxiety felt in the preoperative holding area is increased once children enter the operating room, where monitors are applied, a mask is held over the child’s face, and anesthetics are administered. Reducing parental anxiety has been shown to decrease preoperative anxiety in children and most parents who participate in preoperative preparation programs display reduced anxiety on the day of surgery.


SURGERY PREPARATION TIPS: Children pick up on a parent’s anxiety and become anxious, too, which limits their ability to cope. Some tips in preparing a child for surgery are: talk things out in a calm, quiet place, and tell your child in simple words that he or she will be coming to the hospital; explain why they need the procedure, when it will happen, and encourage them to ask questions and share feelings. You can also check to see if the hospital offers a preoperative tour for families. This allows you and your child to meet the staff and have any questions answered. Your child can see things firsthand and become familiar with certain medical equipment. Encourage your child to help pack for the hospital. Let him or her choose favorite dolls, stuffed animals, books, music, games or toys to bring. Familiar things often make kids feel more comfortable. Older kids love to bring their smartphone, tablet, books and even stuffed animals. A parent can ask to stay in the operating room until the child falls asleep. Some children’s hospitals permit this, based on the procedure, your child’s medical history and his or her age.


PREPARATION PROGRAMS FOR CHILDREN AND FAMILIES: Meet Me at Mount Sinai (MMAMS) is an innovative preoperative preparation program for children and their families that seeks to provide comprehensive emotional and cognitive preparation for surgery. MMAMS is led by a multi-disciplinary team of health care providers including a pediatric surgery nurse practitioner, a registered nurse, a social worker, and a child life specialist. The program utilizes a culturally-sensitive, multimodality preparation model to prepare children and families for the surgical experience. The Child Life Department at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital helps children and families adjust to and understand hospitalization, illness, injury and treatment. Child life specialists and teachers work closely with the medical team to provide the best possible care for each child and family. The goal is to promote normal growth and development while reducing the stress that can be caused by illness and hospitalization.

(Source: and


* For More Information, Contact:


Alayna Curry, APR


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