You might go to the hospital if you fall off your bike and break your arm or if you have asthma and have trouble breathing. You might go to the hospital if you become dehydrated and need IV fluids or if you need to have surgery to take out your tonsils.
It may seem a little scary to go to a hospital, but doctors, nurses, and other hospital workers are there to help people who are sick or hurt feel better. Read on to find out what happens inside a hospital.
Sometimes, your doctor decides you need to be admitted to the hospital (that means you will stay overnight). He or she either needs to find out about something going on inside your body or has decided you need special medicine, surgery, or other treatment for a health problem. Your doctor will call the hospital to tell the staff that you're coming, and you will go to the admissions office to check in.
Another way that kids are admitted to the hospital is through the emergency room. You might go to the emergency room if you are very sick, especially if your doctor or parent feels that you need medical attention right away. In the emergency room, the doctors and nurses will take care of you and help you feel better. If you need to stay overnight at the hospital, someone from the hospital staff will take you and your parents to your hospital room.
When you go into the hospital, you will probably see your mom or dad fill out a lot of different papers. It's important that the hospital has your name, address, phone number, birth date, and other information, like if you take any medicines or have any allergies. You might be asked a lot of questions (sometimes again and again) like your name, your birthday, and how you are feeling. If you don't understand a question, it can help to ask your parents — or the doctor or nurse taking care of you — to explain.
Once you're in the hospital, you may have a room all to yourself or sometimes you will share one with another child. Your room will have a bed, usually with buttons to push that will make the bed move up or down. A curtain can be pulled around your bed so that you can have some privacy while you're resting or changing clothes. There are usually lights that you can turn on and off, and there is a special button to push that will call the nurse if you need anything. You'll probably have a bathroom in your room.
Many hospital rooms have a TV and a telephone to help you keep busy while you're in the hospital. If you're going to be in the hospital for a little while, you can always bring things that remind you of home, like pictures of your family, stuffed animals, books, or toys — or even put up favorite pictures or posters on the wall around your bed. You may want to bring your favorite pillow and blanket to be more comfortable.
In many hospitals, you can wear anything you want — like your own pajamas or bathrobe. Sometimes you might have to wear a special hospital gown that makes it easier for the doctor or nurse to examine you. The hospital usually provides slipper socks or you can bring your own.
Almost every hospital will let one of your parents stay with you all the time, even while you're sleeping in your room. During the day, sisters, brothers, grandparents, and friends can visit. They might even bring you flowers, balloons, or other treats!
You'll meet lots of people in the hospital, from the moment you arrive until you're ready to leave. You might meet as many as 30 people just on your first day!
You'll meet nurses who will help admit you to the hospital and show you around the hospital floor so you'll know where things are. While you're in the hospital, nurses will take care of you day and night. They'll check on you throughout the day to see how you're feeling and if you need anything to be comfortable. Every few hours, they'll take your temperature and blood pressure and listen to your heart and lungs. Nurses will also bring you any medicines you may need while you're sick.
You'll see plenty of doctors in the hospital, too. You might see your own doctor or a doctor who always works in the hospital and takes care of children. If you're in a hospital just for kids, you'll probably also see medical students (who are learning to be doctors) and residents (doctors receiving special training in taking care of kids).
You also might see a medical specialist — that's a doctor who is an expert in a certain kind of medical problem or part of the body. A cardiologist — a doctor who specializes in taking care of the heart — is one example of a specialist.
Another example is if you have asthma and need to be in the hospital, you might see a lung specialist or allergist who will help you with your breathing problems.
Transport people will take you from place to place; volunteers may bring coffee to parents or play games and watch videos with kids in the playroom; and therapists will show you how to use pieces of equipment, like crutches, if you need them.
Some hospitals have child life specialists. A child life specialist's job is to make sure kids in the hospital understand what's going on around them and help them feel more comfortable. Child life specialists can help explain something a doctor or nurse will do, like place an IV or take someone to the operating room for surgery. They can make these things seem less scary.
You will probably have some tests while you're in the hospital — not the kind you take in school! The doctor may order a blood test, which involves taking some blood from a vein in your arm. This test can pinch a little, but it won't hurt too much. For other kinds of tests, you may need to give some urine (pee).
Sometimes an X-ray, CAT scan, or MRI will need to be done. These tests use a special camera to take a picture of a part of your body. This helps doctors see the bones and tissues inside your body and helps them to see if anything is wrong or is making you sick. If there is a test you don't understand, you can ask the doctor or nurse about it, and they will explain it to you.
If you have surgery (that's another name for having an operation), you will meet an anesthesiologist (say: an-us-thee-zee-ah-luh-jist) before the operation. The job of an anesthesiologist is to help you sleep during the surgery with special medicines. This way you won't feel anything while your doctor operates on you.
On the day of surgery, you won't be able to eat breakfast because you can't have an operation on a full stomach. But don't worry — your body will get fluids through an IV. An IV is a tiny tube that carries medicine or fluids into your body through a vein, usually in your arm or hand.
When it's time for the operation, a transport person will wheel you on a special bed to the operating room, where you'll get anesthesia to go to sleep. While you're still awake, the hospital staff will explain everything that is going to happen. If you have any questions, you should always ask!
After your operation, when you wake up, you'll either be back in your room or in a special recovery room — that's a room where nurses can keep checking on you to make sure you're OK.
Most hospitals have playrooms, where you'll find toys, arts and crafts, and games. Someone will be there to help you find something to do. If you can't go to the playroom, someone can bring you things to play with. Most hospitals have TVs or video games, and many have computers (with games!) that can be brought to your bed. Also, many hospitals have special visitors stop by, like clowns or story characters.
Keeping Up With Schoolwork
If you're worried about falling behind on schoolwork while you're in the hospital, there are ways to keep up. Many children's hospitals have a classroom and a teacher for kids who are in the hospital for a while. For shorter stays, if you feel up to it, your parents can have your schoolwork sent home or to the hospital. If you're not feeling great and you don't think you can keep up with the schoolwork, your school will understand and give you extra time when you go back.
It's normal to be a little nervous — and even scared — when going to the hospital. But remember:
- Your family will be with you.
- There are other kids in the hospital who are going through the same kind of thing.
- Lots of people, like doctors and nurses, can answer any questions you might have. Don't be afraid to ask! Remember, they're there to help you feel better and will be glad to make you more comfortable.
- After spending time at the hospital, you should be on the road to feeling better!
Reviewed by: Kate M. Cronan, MD
Date reviewed: April 2007