Suggestions to Help the Frequently Hospitalized Child

Maureen Mulligan LaRossa

  1. Take familiar toys, transition, or sleep objects (blanket, favorite pacifier, family pictures) to the hospital.  Be aware there is a potential for things to get lost.  If possible you want something that will be comforting for the child but not irreplaceable.  For some toddlers their blanket or sleep toy is a one of a kind, but an essential object to include.  Make sure it has the child’s name on it and ask that a notation be made at the bedside, or in the chart, regarding its importance.

  2. If the child is repeatedly admitted to the same unit request the same primary care giver be assigned to the child each hospitalization.

  3. Bring to the hospital one or two brightly colored index cards.  Have printed on the cards, in a friendly manner, your child’s feeding preferences and bedtime rituals.  Post the cards at your child's bedside.   Remember the staff is very busy, if you want them to attend to your requests make your points brief, clearly stated and realistic for this setting.

  4. During the hospitalization have a family member stay with your child for as much of the time as possible.

  5. Be prepared for your child to respond behaviorally to this experience.  Even if a young child can talk she/he cannot be expected to verbally express the feelings and fears a hospitalization may cause (many adults have trouble in the same situation).  You should be prepared for your child to become clingy or rejecting, or to possibly regress in her/his behavior (act more babyish).  Try to react to your child with as much acceptance as possible at this time.  In addition, gently encourage your child to do the things she/he was doing before the hospitalization.

  6. Remember children are very resilient.  Try not to worry excessively and do not treat your child like she/he might break.  Do give yourself permission to be tired, grumpy and upset for a little while, then try to get back to your family routine.  Children respond best if medical problems can be treated as a fact of life, as something that needs to be dealt with, then move on as best you can.

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© 1998, 2001 Copyright Maureen Mulligan, LaRossa, R.N.