8 Things to Know when Caring for a Sick Child in the Hospital

Having a child in the hospital can be very challenging.

The following are 8 tips for parents caring for a child in the hospital, from a former pediatric staff nurse:

 Child in hospitalImage courtesy of Sura Nualpradid at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


1) It’s in your child’s best interest if a parent or family/friend stays with them at all times.

The nurse may have at least 6 other patients besides your child, and will not be able to play with them and keep them company when they are upset or bored.


2) Taking shifts is really important.

Only one parent should be there at a time so that you will each get a break.
Staying over in the hospital can be exhausting, so see if family and friends are able to pick up a shift.

sick kid in hospital


3) Advocating for your child is your job.

The nurse will assume if you’re not speaking up, everything must be fine.
In addition, nurses can get overwhelmed, and your request may get tossed to the bottom of her To-do list.  A gentle reminder an hour later may help as well.
Remember “the squeaky wheel gets the grease” is definitely the case in the hospital setting.

4) If your child is on medication, have a quick look at what the nurse brings in to ensure it is what they are supposed to get.

Medication errors do unfortunately occur, so a little awareness can make a difference in preventing them.


5) Being nice will get you what you want a lot quicker than being rude and demanding.

Once you get the title of “That Rude Parent”, every nurse will subsequently get the message in report.

I once had a patient transferred to my floor who had a bad experience on the previous floor.  She & her family were yelling at me and demanding I fix it.
You can bet I did not visit that room much during the rest of my shift!

If you are upset about something, speak politely and ask the nurse who to address their complaints to.  Your nurse will be happy to help, as long as they are treated with respect.


6) On the flip side, bringing in chocolate or donuts for the nurses will definitely earn you brownie points.

Appreciation will always be reciprocated with extra attention, after all nurses are only human!


7) If you don’t understand what the doctor is saying, don’t let them leave the room until you are clear.

If you have any further questions, let the nurse know and she will try and explain it and make sure it is clear.

doctor checking child in hospital bedImage courtesy of kdshutterman at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


8) There are usually resources in the hospital to help you cope during this time.

There are social workers that can help you process what is going on.

There may be Child Life Specialists to help your child during difficult procedures, or to play with them and bring them toys when they are bored.

There are also Patient Advocates to help you obtain what you need and to advocate for you.

In case that information is not shared with you, make sure to ask if they are available.

In addition, for friends and family who want to help, see 15 Dos and Dont’s for Helping a Friend With a Sick Child in the Hospital, a great resource for tips and ideas.

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