Preparing for a healthcare experience

Minimise the effects of hospitalisation on your child by preparing them in advance!

How can you prepare for a hospital visit?

  • Read stories and encourage play about hospitals to help your child express feelings and feel more in control
  • Give information to your child a little at a time – older children require more detail – younger children less
  • Explain to your child that anaesthesia is not exactly like sleep – they will not be disturbed by pain or procedures under anaesthesia 
  • Allow your child to make decisions in relation to their care as often as possible eg. simple ones such as which bandaid would you like?
  • Encourage your child to ask questions, to talk about how they feel and take part in a tour of the hospital
  • Be supportive and encouraging, make positive comments about your child’s efforts, in order to build confidence
  • Explain that sometimes, you will have to leave you child to go and do other things
  • It is okay to feel upset and cry, the staff are there to help you
  • Build up trust – always tell your child when you are leaving and when you will be back
  • Prepare brothers and sisters by telling them what is going to happen to their sibling and them during the hospital stay
  • You will need to prepare in the same way whether the hospital visit is for one day or a month

What can influence the experience of hospitalisation?

  • Previous healthcare experiences
  • Developmental age and stage of your child
  • Your relationship with your child 
  • Seriousness of the illness
  • Severity of the medical procedure
  • Coping style of your child

Medical play at home

What is medical play?

Medical play is a kind of play where your child acts out medical procedures, is allowed to play at being the doctor, nurse or patient, is in control of what is happening and allows your child emotional release of anger, fear and anxiety.

Medical play helps your child:
  • Experience less fear and anxiety before, during and after hospitalisation,
  • Understand treatment procedures and what may happen at the hospital,
  • Cope with fear and pain by giving him/her the opportunity of being the person in control, and
  • Recover emotionally after hospitalisation.

How do I provide medical play?

You will need:

1. A doll or teddy

2. A pretend medical kit (this may be made out of a cardboard box)

3. Strips of cloth for bandages, an eye patch, sticking plasters, cotton wool, medicine cup

4. Toy stethoscope (this can be made out of empty cotton reels, a plastic cup and a long piece of string)

5. Any other materials that will stimulate medical play

Allow your child to pretend to be a doctor, nurse or patient. Talk to your child about hospitalisation so that they can ask questions and gain an understanding of hospitalisation.