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A Child's Trip to the Hospital Doesn't Always Have to Involve Fear and Tears

Tips for Parents to Prepare Children for Hospital Visits

From Child Life Specialists at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia In Celebration of National Child Life Week March 16th - 23rd

PHILADELPHIA, March 17 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A child's trip to the hospital doesn't always have to involve fear and tears. At least that's the goal of the Child Life team at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. This team, consisting of Certified Child Life Specialists and Assistants, Creative Arts and Music Therapists, Teachers, Multi-Media Specialists and others, use toys, games, videos, websites, art projects, music and other techniques to educate young patients and ease them through scary or painful procedures. The diverse team, full of experts in child development, therapeutic recreation, art and music therapy and education, work with patients throughout their entire health care experience here at the hospital, during both inpatients stays and outpatient visits.

The team emphasizes, when a child is prepared, experiences are much less scary. Therefore a specialist first explains to children, in child friendly language, what's going to happen to them, this way things will go much more smoothly.

The job of a Child Life Specialist is to prepare children and their families for their experiences here at the hospital. The goal is to make children feel more a part of a procedure and less like a victim of the event. However, the most important part of their job is to make sure kids can still be kids, even though they are in the hospital- this can best be done through PLAY!

As many parents already know, play is the way children learn about the world around them and show us how they understand their world. Children often play house, play school and sometimes even play doctor. At Children's Hospital, patients are engaged in medical play to become more comfortable with their medical procedures. Medical play is a way for children to learn about the hospital or doctors office and see what will happen during their visit. Through play, children can often help adults understand their worries, concerns and misconceptions.

Some of these techniques can be done at home prior to a child's visit to the hospital or doctor's office. Possibilities include playing with medical equipment, playing doctor with stuffed animals or dolls, using a doctor kit to learn about different tools doctors and nurses will use, reading stories about healthcare experiences, or creating artwork with medical supplies. In honor of national Child Life Week the team put together some tips for parents to prepare their children for healthcare experiences...

Tips for parents from the Child Life Team at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia:

1. Find out everything you can about your child's test or procedure. Have a doctor or nurse explain it to you or use a brochure. This way you have the most accurate information to share with your child.

2. Be sure to use words that you think your child can easily understand. Example: Kids hear IV and think Ivy like Poison Ivy - this simple confusion can cause a great deal of unnecessary distress.

3. Teach your child about what will happen in the hospital or doctor's office and the order in which it will occur. A child needs to know what will happen first, next and at the end of the procedure.

4. Practice a procedure with your child using a doll or stuffed animal. Work as a team with your child to figure out ways to cope with the test or procedure. You explain to your child what will occur. Then you and your child decide what will help make the test go as smoothly as possible.

5. Allow your child to express feelings about a test or medical procedure. During medical play, let your child "take the lead." Your role may be as the "nurse" or "helper" for your child.

6. During medical play, observe the feelings your child expresses. Children can exaggerate or show very aggressive feelings during medical play, it is always helpful to end medical play with a reality comment.

7. Play "dress-up" using surgery hats and masks, scrubs, lab coats and rubber gloves.

8. Read books about going to the doctor, the dentist or the hospital.

9. Create art projects with medical supplies or pictures of medical supplies.

10. Last but not least, visit, a website designed by Children's Hospital's child life and web teams, specifically for children to prepare for their visit to the hospital.

About The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia: The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia was founded in 1855 as the nation's first pediatric hospital. Through its long-standing commitment to providing exceptional patient care, training new generations of pediatric healthcare professionals and pioneering major research initiatives, Children's Hospital has fostered many discoveries that have benefited children worldwide. Its pediatric research program is among the largest in the country, ranking third in National Institutes of Health funding. In addition, its unique family-centered care and public service programs have brought the 430-bed hospital recognition as a leading advocate for children and adolescents. For more information, visit

SOURCE The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
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