Your child’s hospital stay: communicating with health professionals

When your child is in hospital, you’ll probably talk with lots of doctors, nurses and other health professionals. It’s OK to ask questions if you don’t understand something they say or you need more information.

Sometimes it can be hard to remember information from a conversation with a health professional. It can help to write things down or ask the staff to write things down for you.

It’s also a good idea to keep a list of questions you and your child want to ask the health care team, so you don’t have to remember them on the spot.

Routines during a hospital stay

If you have a routine while your child is in hospital, it can help things feel more normal.

Of course, this isn’t always easy to do and you might need to adjust your routine to suit therapy appointments or meetings with doctors.

It’s a good idea to talk with staff about a realistic routine for you and your child, including scheduling regular meals and sleeps when you can.

You can also vary the routine as your child’s condition changes and improves. For example, you could find out when your child might be able to start doing things like walking to the cafeteria.

Visitors during a hospital stay

It can help to let your family and friends know when it’s OK to visit, and for how long. This is particularly important if your child is very unwell or has had a major procedure and needs rest.

Always think about your child’s needs when you’re making decisions about visitors. It can also help to:

  • suggest people wait until your child is home before visiting
  • give visitors specific times to come, so you know when to expect them
  • limit how long visitors stay, so your child has time to rest and recover
  • limit how many people visit at a time – a good guide is a maximum of 4-5 people.

Staying engaged, connected and entertained during a hospital stay

If your child feels bored, frustrated and anxious in hospital, that’s normal. But it can help to have some activities up your sleeve. These activities can give your child the chance to engage in learning and stay connected with family, friends and schoolmates. And they can help your child pass the time too.

Engaging in learning

  • Ask your child’s teacher or teachers for schoolwork to do in hospital. The teachers might be able to email you the work so you don’t have to go into school to collect it.
  • If your child’s teacher uses online learning platforms like StudyLadder, Spelling City or Mathletics, ask whether the teacher could set your child some tasks on these platforms.
  • Set up Skype or other video chat apps so your child can make a virtual visit to her classroom.
  • Bring in a laptop or tablet so your child can do some research and put together a presentation on a topic that interests him. The presentation could be in any form he likes – slideshow, video, poster and so on.

Staying connected

  • Set up your child to use email or social media to exchange news with her teacher, classmates, friends and family.
  • Get your child some postcards, writing paper and stamps, so he can stay connected the old-fashioned way!
  • Let your child use video chat apps to see and talk with friends and family.

Activities for your child

  • Suggest your child makes a picture book that tells a story. The story could even be about your child’s experience in hospital.
  • Take in some board games to play with your child.
  • Read, read – and then read some more! If you’re not sure what books your child might like, ask your child’s teacher to recommend some.
  • If reading is too much for your child, try listening to audiobooks, music or podcasts.
  • Use a tablet in creative ways, as well as just for playing games. Your child could record interviews with people around her, or make videos or a picture journal of her hospital stay. Older children can create animations, blogs or music.

If your child is going to a major children’s hospital, check out the hospital’s website. Most children’s hospitals have programs and activities to help children stay interested and engaged during their hospital stay.

Looking after yourself

You’ll be in better shape to care for your child in hospital and at home if you look after your own physical and mental health. You can do this by eating well, finding ways to relax, and trying to get as much sleep as you can.

Here are some ways to get the physical and mental rest you need:

  • Speak with staff about when you can take a break, even if it’s just for 5-10 minutes to go for a walk or get a coffee.
  • Make a visiting roster for family and friends, especially if your child is in hospital for a longer time. This will give you a break, while also ensuring your child has someone with him.
  • Use the hospital’s family support services, like child life therapists, volunteers or the family resource centre.
  • Get a family member or friend to look after your other children.
  • Find out about the local area around the hospital – there might be a park or café nearby, where you can spend some time.
  • Sleep when your child sleeps. If you’re well rested, you’ll be better able to think and make decisions.
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