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How To Stay Calm And Support Children Through Hospital Procedures

Updated on August 21, 2016
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ICU Nurse in Children's Ward which was an exciting and challenging career. As a mother of two I look forward to sharing my experiences.

How Children Can Grow Up Confident And Able To Cope With Health Issues

In a hospital survey three-quarters of parents revealed that their children experienced pain or anxiety when having medical procedures. It does not have to be like this. Although there is always more to learn we know enough now to make a difference to parents and children learning to cope with medical tests and procedures Whatever your own beliefs and perceptions about medical encounters the truth is that with the knowledge and resources available today procedures do not have to be painful. Children can grow up confident and able to cope with whatever health issues arise to have the freedom to make treatment choices not based on fear and learning to cope with medical procedures and tests even if it is a little painful can be a source of mastery and confidence just like learning how to swim.

Children doesn't trust strangers and that's how they initially feel about hospital staff.
Children doesn't trust strangers and that's how they initially feel about hospital staff.

How Children Feel About Hospital Staff And Strangers

This fear begins around seven to nine months of age which is the beginning of learning who they can trust in the world which is essential for self-protection. A child's brain is wired and taps on if people are familiar and trustworthy based on their facial expressions and even how their bodies and limbs are moving. It is at this developmental stage that children start to watch to see what your reaction to a situation is in which they are feeling uncertain. It is called social referencing.

Hospital Procedures For Children

Even the so-called minor noninvasive procedures can feel intrusive and stressful to a young child. Dressing a wound taking and putting a plaster on a broken arm would be considered noninvasive. What is minor to us can be major to them when they feel terrified. Young children have alarm systems in place by the time they are born but do not yet have the control network connected. It is like having a smoke detector but no way of knowing if the toast is burning or the house is on fire. Children need help to sort out real from imaginary threats to prevent fears from becoming anxieties and phobias develop a reliable sensory system learn to love and trust their bodies. Fear is a normal emotional response to a perceived threat. Fears are common in early childhood and can be innate or learned. Innate fears Innate fears are wired into the brain and are programmed to appear at different stages of development. Your child will happily go with people where there is nothing threatening on the horizon but if she senses danger she wants you to calm her down and her nervous system switches back to safety. Therefore you need to stay close contact depending on the demands of the situation. As children grow up they are able to further themselves away but usually come back to the familiar base of the parents as they become more independent.

 Children can grow up confident and able to cope with whatever health issues arise and have the freedom to make treatment choices not based on fear.
Children can grow up confident and able to cope with whatever health issues arise and have the freedom to make treatment choices not based on fear.

How To Talk To Your Child About Hospital Procedures

Normalizing medical procedures are one of the greatest gifts you can give your child. One of the best things you can do is talk about is the future talk about the thing you are going to do next week or next summer anything that helps your child think a little bit past the immediate issue. In scary situations, you can help reduce anxiety with some gestures. You can help your child feel more comfortable by simply ask the nurse to apply a numbing gel before your kid gets a shot or has some blood drawn. That will certainly take some of the pain out. Make sure that your child uses sanitizer or wash with soap and warm water to keep your child from picking up an infection. The more people who know how to support young children in the medical setting the faster change will come about. Throughout his or her life, a child will have many encounters with the medical world. For the most part, it will involve no more than routine procedures such as immunizations and a number of rare hospital visits for accident or illness that are carried out on children for the sake of their health, using modern equipment and machinery. These save countless lives and untold suffering.

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While in the waiting room, keep an eye on your child's condition.
While in the waiting room, keep an eye on your child's condition.

What To Do While In The Hospital Waiting Room

It is better to have your child play with their own toys while visiting a hospital than the ones that may be covered with germs from sick children. You may be around germs and waiting a long time too so make sure you bring toys and books just in case.

  • Call your pediatrician on your way to the emergency room as long as you're not driving! If your doc talks to the emergency department there is a good chance that you will be seen faster.
  • Be nice it is simply human nature. Nicer people get treated better than angry and irritated people. You can be assertive but do not be antagonistic.
  • Don't give your child food or drink in the waiting room. If he needs surgery the food will not mix well with anesthesia.
  • If your child's symptoms have worsened while you have been waiting to be seen tell the nurse.

You are your child's advocate and protector. You can be assertive without being rude. If your child needs to be seen let it be known. Then describe the changes in your child's condition and that will get some attention from the nurse. But do not try to snow the nurse under just to get the faster attention that will not help.

Preparing For A Hospital Procedure

There are plenty of heartbreak moments that come for parents when you have to leave your child for the first time when he learns that Santa lives in the same house as he does when he gets rejected at the school dance but one of the toughest challenges for parents comes when they have to see their child in pain. An overnight hospital stay whether necessary because of an infection that requires antibiotics or an operation of some sort require a special mind set. There is no doubt that your child is just as nervous as you are at the upcoming hospital visit.There is also no doubt that he is looking at your cues that everything is going to be all right. Even babies can pick up on nonverbal bad sign so you need to stay as soothing and relaxed as you can. You should do the same for toddlers but you can be up front with your child and take a few minutes to comfort them. Explain to him what is going to happen and why he is going to the hospital. But avoid using scary words like needle and knife.


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