Preparing to Come into Hospital for Surgery

  • Good and Bad Ways to talk to your child when having procedures done in hospital.

  • Download our Katie Bear guidebook for children and families

    Preparation is important when coming into hospital as it can reduce stress and anxiety for your child and yourselves as parents. Preparation can involve many different things but mainly allows your child to have an understanding of hospital before they come here.

    The best way to explore hospital with your child is through play. Hospital play can be introduced slowly and become a regular theme of play in the lead up to admission.

  • Some fun forms of hospital play could be…

    • Playing with doctors sets
    • Playing with things at home e.g. plasters, bandages, thermometer
    • Role-playing doctor and patient
    • Playmobil or hospital sets with figures and an ambulance
    • Cbeebies ‘Get Well Soon Hospital’ programmes
    • Stories with hospitals in them e.g. ‘Going to the hospital’, ‘Peppa Pig goes to hospital’ ‘Topsy and Tim go to the hospital’
    • Use of phone/iPad apps such as ‘i Get….Going to the Hospital’
    • Online resources, e.g. The Sammy has a Heart Operation on the British Heart Foundation Website (

  • All of these types of play allow your child to gain understanding of equipment and procedures in a fun way. It can allow them to feel more in control and this can lead to reduced stress and anxiety.

    Answer any questions that your child may have as openly and honestly as you can (appropriately for their age), always reminding them that the doctors are going to try and make their heart work better and that they are there to help them.

    When you come to meet your surgeon in Surgical clinic, you will also meet a nurse specialist and/ or a psychologist. You can discuss your questions about preparation with them and they can refer you to our surgical preparation clinic to meet and talk more about coming into hospital with a psychologist and a play specialist. In this specialised clinic you and your child/ young person will have the opportunity to look at medical and preparation equipment and make a procedure plan to support the whole family during the admission.

  • Preparing yourselves & top tips from other parents

    One of the best ways to make sure your child is prepared is to make sure you are prepared and have an understanding about your child’s condition, the procedure and what will happen when your child comes into hospital. You can gain this information by asking as many questions as you like to your surgeon when you are in clinic or by calling the cardiac nurse specialists or visiting the support pages of this website.

    Make sure you have time planned off work and have made travel arrangements. Having these sorts of things arranged can make the whole day run a lot more smoothly and allow you to concentrate on helping your child.

  • It may be helpful to contact other parents who have been through a similar procedure with a child of a similar age. You can do this through many different charities and social media. This may help you learn when the most demanding times may be and help you plan for them.

    These top tips have been written by other parents

    New Mums
    • Take in a pillow to sit on and a feeding pillow to help mums and dads holding the new baby.
    • Free meals are provided for the first few days following delivery.

    • Premade frozen dinners are good to eat in the parents accommodation
    • Bring in healthy snacks in case you miss a meal
    • A coffee cup with a lid
    • Labels & pen to stick on the food in the fridge/cupboards in the parental accommodation
    • Look up local cafes/restaurants who are offering discounts on food & drink – there is often a free coffee/cake being offered!

    • If you are staying a few days ask for a parking pass from the ward for the multi-story car park – put the first couple of hours parking fee in the machine and then see the ward for a temporary parking permit.

    • A book to read to the baby (you run out of things to talk about)
    • Pack layers, vest tops and cardigans/ jumpers as the temperature on the ward often changes so pack accordingly
    • Moisturiser as the hospital environment can dry out your skin
    • Phone charger
    • Download films before you come to hospital for your child to watch

    • Don’t be afraid to ask your visitors to sit with your child, so you can go and have something to eat & drink or have a rest.
    • Don’t be afraid to ask for help (delegate walking the dog, housework etc)
    • Make sure your finances and paperwork are up to date ( you don’t want to worry about bills)

  • Preparing siblings and the rest of the family

    If your child has siblings then it is likely that they will also have questions. Answer them as honestly and openly as you can. It may be helpful to let school know what is going on as siblings can experience stress as well and school may be able to offer extra support if it is needed.

    Make sure siblings know what to expect when they visit their brother or sister in hospital. Let them know that their sibling may be very tired or may not look like they normally do.

    Often, especially if you have a large family, everyone will want to know what is going on and how your child and you are doing. It can be frustrating having to constantly repeat yourself. It can be helpful to pick one or two trusted close family members to keep updated and ask them if it can be their job to pass on the information to whoever else you would like it passed to.

  • The day before admission

    Allowing your child to be involved in planning and packing for hospital can really help make the experience more fun and engaging for them rather than scary.

    Help your child pack a small bag that they can carry and pack themselves with their favourite toy, favourite blanket and some DVDs. Letting them pack their own mini bag of their favourite things will make them feel involved and more at home in the hospital.

  • You should also pack another bag with anything else you will need. Bring a variation of toys, as even their favourite toys may get boring after a few days. It is also good to bring changes of comfortable clothes as well as food and drink. (Make sure you label everything with your name.)

    On the day of surgery your child will not be allowed to eat or drink, this can be a difficult time. You may want to eat and drink away from your child and bring electronic games or DVDs which do not reference food, to keep your child distracted.

  • Planning for the day of admission

    It is important to be prepared in case admission is delayed, e.g. due to a bed not being ready. Have a plan for a family day together (without buying tickets for anything) just in case things are held up