Oct 30 2008

10 Tips for a Trip to the Hospital

Our latest little adventure isn’t the kind of trip any of us plans with our kids: a trip to the hospital. My five-year-old son was feeling under the weather yesterday, so I took him to the doctor. He was diagnosed with pneumonia and admitted to the hospital.

Unfortunately, I’ve been a hospital mom a few times before. Fortunately, all were short stays and our kids made full recoveries. For those who haven’t had a child hospitalized before, here are some things I’ve learned:

  1. Trust your parent instincts. If your kids are sick, you usually know when to take them to the doctor. Likewise, you’ll probably have a gut feeling that they’re going to need to be hospitalized.
  2. Keep a toiletry bag packed at home at all times. Mine’s always packed for overnight trips, with extras of all my daily necessities. When I had to call home and tell my husband what things to bring, I didn’t have to list individual items, just to grab my black bag.
  3. Sometimes it seems like things in the hospital move very slowly, especially the admissions process. Even though I’d answered a bunch of pre-admission questions, it still took over an hour to get fully settled in our room and for the nurses to get everything set up and entered in the computer for our stay.
  4. If you need something, ask for it. Don’t suffer in silence, thinking you’ll interrupt the nurses. Be polite but assertive in what you need.
  5. You’ll probably only see your doctor for a few minutes each day, so write down any questions or issues you need addressed by the doctor so you’re ready when they make their rounds.
  6. The nurses will be taking care of the day-to-day care. Ask questions and pay attention to what they do so that you can best participate in your child’s care.
  7. Find someone to take over the care of your other children so you can concentrate on your sick one and not worry about the details at home.
  8. Convertible chair-beds aren’t the most comfortable, but they’ll do in a pinch so that you can stay with your child overnight.
  9. Try to find out what time various people will be stopping by the room, so you don’t step out at a bad time. At our hospital, lab personnel, respiratory therapists, and doctors usually come early in the morning. A shower can wait until later.
  10. If it’s quiet and your child is resting, get some sleep yourself. You never know if you’ll get a good night’s rest the next night.

My son seems to be doing well, and hopefully we’ll go home later today or tomorrow morning. Right now, he’s enjoying playing with the controls on his bed, so I can tell he’s feeling better than yesterday.

Hospital-veteran parents, do you have any tips to add to this list?

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Published by at 10:03 am under Family Travel
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27 comments so far

27 Comments to “10 Tips for a Trip to the Hospital”

  1. Anne on 30 Oct 2008 at 10:53 am

    Thank you for sharing these great tips. You seem much more put together than I would be. I hope everyone heads home soon.

    Anne’s last blog post..Helping Your Kids to Help Others

  2. Debbie Dubrow on 30 Oct 2008 at 11:03 am

    I’ve been thinking of you all day. I’m glad to hear your son is starting to feel better. Sending good wishes your way…

    Debbie Dubrow’s last blog post..Book Review: 101 Places You Gotta See Before You’re 12!

  3. jessiev on 30 Oct 2008 at 11:04 am

    hope things go smoothly. it is so scary, when someone’s ill, and you feel so helpless. you’ll be in our thoughts!

    jessiev’s last blog post..NFT Travel Guides: Phillies World Series Champion Edition

  4. Kathleen McDade on 30 Oct 2008 at 11:15 am

    GREAT tips; hope all is going well today! I need to do #2 on your list.

    Kathleen McDade’s last blog post..My Rocky Horror Past

  5. Angie on 30 Oct 2008 at 11:16 am

    Another tip, not from my child, but my dad: always be corteous to the nurses. They will be your main care giver while you’re in the hospital. If you are polite to them they will mostly be polite back. And if you get a bad nurse (there’s bad apples in every profession) make sure to speak up. Speak with their supervisor and explain your concerns. They are your first line of care. If you aren’t satisfied or have misgivings, listen to them.

  6. Anne on 30 Oct 2008 at 11:17 am

    You are definitely more organized than I. Thank you for the tips, I will have my overnight essentials put together tonight!


    Anne’s last blog post..Martha’s Vineyard Vacation Rental: Lambert’s Cove, Makonikey Beach

  7. Pamela Kramer on 30 Oct 2008 at 11:19 am

    I’ve been on this side a few times. I like your list. It’s great to take a back pack with books and crayons.

    Pamela Kramer’s last blog post..Bloggy Carnival Post

  8. Mara on 30 Oct 2008 at 12:29 pm

    I’m so sorry to hear about your son! How stressful. I’m impressed that you were able to write a blog post.

    I think this is a great list. I can also recommend the following website for information about doctor’s visits, hospitals, and just about anything related to your child’s health: http://www.kidshealth.org

    Hope you are all home and well soon!

    Mara’s last blog post..Well now, we’re glad to have you: Austin eats

  9. Sandra Foyt on 30 Oct 2008 at 5:06 pm

    Good advice! It’s wonderful that you have the presence of mind to share your experience, and helping others, even as you’re going through this stressful time. Wishing your child, and your family, a speedy recovery!

    Sandra Foyt’s last blog post..You’ve Been Booed!

  10. Angela Nickerson on 30 Oct 2008 at 5:59 pm

    I am so glad to read that he is getting better! Sending lots of good thoughts your way!

    Angela Nickerson’s last blog post..Blogapalooza: What a Strange Trip It’s Been

  11. Dani on 30 Oct 2008 at 9:55 pm

    Great tips and great post!

    Sending healing thoughts your way.

    Dani’s last blog post..Needs Change

  12. Bridget Smith on 31 Oct 2008 at 12:11 am

    You’ll be in my prayers. What a bummer! I’m sure the siblings will share candy upon his return. :) . I would say, go with your gut and don’t be afraid to advocate for what you think your child needs.


    Bridget Smith’s last blog post..Why Family Adventure Guidebooks?

  13. Andrea @ Mommy Snacks on 31 Oct 2008 at 8:57 am

    Great Tips! the only other thing I would possibly add is if you have enough time, grab items to occupy your time/attention.

    Waiting on answers and thinking about how sick your child is or how things are going to turn out can really eat you up!

    Andrea @ Mommy Snacks’s last blog post..Shopping with Coupons: Stockpiling

  14. Katia / Crazy for trying on 31 Oct 2008 at 9:02 am

    My youngest was admitted when she was 3 weeks old with viral meningitis. It was nerve wracking (read: I was a post-partum hormonal mess).

    My advice: trust the nurses. It’s ok to leave the bedside and take a walk, grab some food, etc.

    Katia / Crazy for trying’s last blog post..(temporary) single mom

  15. Missives From Suburbia on 01 Nov 2008 at 9:56 am

    As for people to bring you real food. You can keep up your own strength if you aren’t eating, and hospital food is no way to live.

    I hope he’s feeling better soon!

    Missives From Suburbia’s last blog post..Need Ideas For Your Christmas List, Ladies?

  16. Kitrona on 03 Nov 2008 at 2:42 pm

    Ohhh, poor kid! What a stressful situation. My oldest was in the hospital the day after his 4th birthday with pneumonia, and that was the most stressful four days of my life. Keeping you and him in my thoughts, and hoping he gets to go home soon! :)

    Kitrona’s last blog post..Holiday Highlights Interview Series: Static White’s Stitchery

  17. Brandice Senecal on 19 Nov 2008 at 11:55 am

    I’ve only had one in the hospital. When we were settling into our room I broke down and cried because I had no idea what to expect.

    Good Post!

  18. Charlie on PA Tpk on 13 Jan 2009 at 1:09 pm

    Having been there, done that, more than once, keep the following also in mind:

    * eat at least once per day. Doesn’t matter how much of a knot your stomach is in. You say you’re worried about your kid? Fine, but if you get sick, or are too weak to think, what then?

    * Sleep when your kid sleeps. Can’t sleep? Walk the halls. I’m serious: one or two laps at a face-pace can burn off the tension, making that reclining chair all the more comfortable.

    * Drink water; if you’re anything like me, you’ll drink quarts of coffee; you’ll need to “replenish” due to the effects of caffeine.

    * Designate a POC: a point of contact, one whose job is to broadcast whatever news you have to the rest of the family. Too often, too many friends/family members will call you (or expect you to call them) asking for updates. You don’t want to shut them out, but you’re not benefiting from repeating EVERYTHING to EVERYONE ANYTIME the phone rings. So call your spouse, and one other person, and let them call everyone else.

    * Be nice to floor staff….: going down for food/coffee? Tell the desk you’re going down, and ask if you can get them something. I never had anyone take me up on the offer, but they’re people, too, and will appreciate it.

    * …but don’t be steam-rolled by the staff: if you aren’t getting serious answers to your serious questions, politely push. Be reasonable (i.e. it’s 2AM, and your doctor won’t be back until 7AM), but don’t give in.

    Charlie on PA Tpk’s last blog post..Counting down

  19. MK on 13 Jan 2009 at 1:27 pm

    If your children are young, bringing a favorite doll / stuffed animal and a play doctor’s kit helps them to process what they are being subjected to. Stethoscopes and injections are a lot less scarey with creative role playing. Also, having a stash of ready made food with some protein in it is a life saver. One time our lunch ordered for my son with a grilled cheese sandwich came without any food on the platter. It was another 2-1/2 hours before lunch came as they had to re-order it. The stash of blueberries and peanut butter crackers I had on hand were lifesavers.

  20. twoundersix on 13 Jan 2009 at 2:38 pm

    wish I had had the foresight to have a bag to pack

    that falls in the area of ..if only i could do wihtout sleep..like the organizing guru who says always have a spare of all your keys somewhere. great idea. execution is failing.

    i agree with finding someone to watch other kids. if you have luxury. we don’t have family in twon so we paid c. to watch my oldest while youngest in ER wiht what turned out to be a fractured elbow. the relief of knowing we could both take turns dealing with a newly turned three year old in ER for (kid you not) two hours…was beyond words. it took guts to call with no notice and say what happened…but I did.

    also when our oldest in for open heart surgery, i agree being polite to nurse a good thing. sometimes nurse translates “Dr speak” when I have no clue what he said. and i am seriously so not dumb. visual learner, maybe. dumb, no.

  21. MJ on 13 Jan 2009 at 7:07 pm

    Great tips! I’m going to pack a bag immediately, just to have on hand, since we have extra stuff that might get left behind if we have to do it in a hurry.

    Here are some extra tips that seem a little extreme, but you just never know.

    - Lock up your stuff. If you’re in the NICU or the PICU, there might not be a close place for you to do that, but there might be lockers outside where you can leave anything you’ve brought in with you while you’re at lunch (or walking the halls, or making phone calls, or whatever). The nurses will know and will be happy to tell you–purses get stolen a LOT, and they’d just as soon not be blamed for it. Also, there might not be a place for coats, gloves, etc., so leave them behind if at all possible. Even if you’re in a private room, don’t leave any valuables like cameras or Gameboys out in the open if you’re not in the room–those doors are open, and anybody can sneak past a sleeping child.

    - Be aware that someone might be writing down things about you without telling you. For example: if you’re crying a lot, they’ll be watching you for signs of depression, and they will leave notes for others on staff; if they sense signs of family tension, they will do likewise. The nurses are your best friends, your co-workers, and often your advocates… but they’re also your observers, in some hospitals.

    - If you go to a hospital far from home and you have to stay overnight, you might have to find lodging. Be sure to see if there’s a Ronald McDonald House nearby. RMH is a wonderful and supportive place, full of other people who are going through the same things you are (or worse). They ask for a small donation (around $15 a night) but they will not expect you to pay if you can’t afford it. They usually provide transportation to the hospital, which can be a HUGE relief if you’re in an unfamiliar city and unaccustomed to city driving.

    - If you’re going to be there for a while, a good way to establish that one point of contact, as Charlie on PA Tpk suggests, is to set up a blog or use carepages (http://www.carepages.com) to post updates. That allows you to decide when and what to say, and people can comment without your necessarily having to respond immediately. Most hospitals have a few computers available in the library or resource center for families of patients to use, and it makes a nice break while your child is asleep.

    I hope nobody reading this ever has an occasion to put these into practice. :-)

  22. Chaya on 13 Jan 2009 at 8:28 pm

    We spent a week this summer, with my 2 yr old…let me try to remember…
    -healthy food stashes
    -use the pantry when you need to: graham crackers+peanut butter, cranberry juice+ginger ale were the go to snacks.
    -try to leave the building once a day, even for a walk around the parking lot
    -i had a infant at the time, and found it less stressful for me to have her with me and a babysitter\family member, so that I wasn’t worried about her, if she needed to nurse, etc….the helper walked her in the stroller around and held her when necessary, the hospital was awesome about letting me have a pack and play in our room for her to nap in, (obvioiusly this is very much dependent on the situation and the condition of the other child)
    -push for answers and specialists and remind (gently) if you aren’t getting promised actions fast enough…don’t wait hours, to be told that the specialist can’t come till the next day
    -YOU KNOW YOUR KID..sometimes in the hospital it feels like you are abdicating responsibility, but you have to trust your instincts..if you think something isn’t working or is wrong, ASK…there maybe something you don’t know, but you may be RIGHT (my example: my son had some pretty bad wounds we were dealing with [he had something pretty rare called exzema herpeticum], and every nurse tried something different to get the whole thing to not rip open every time they changed his dressings..I realized at some point that there was no science behind how they were doing it, and my opinions of what I had seen working and not working shift after shift after shift were totally valid)
    -don’t assume that any dr (esp. hospitalists) have read and understood the chart..they may have skimmed it and missed an important piece of info or note from the shift before…if it sounds like they are missing a piece, mention it.
    -we brought pajamas from home instead of a gown..as long as the nurses had access to what they needed access to it was fine. what actually worked best was an oversized t-shirt and sweats…very easy on\off, didn’t get in the way, but more comfortable and familiar then the weird gown.
    -my boy was petrified of the hospital crib,(wouldn’t you be!) so I slept in a bed with him and we had them roll the crib out of the room. That worked really well.
    -our hospital did this as policy, but it was so so smart…when they discharged him, they rolled him out to the car in a wagon…when he talks about his hospital stay, he remembers that wagon ride, because it was the last impression he had and he was so excited about it.
    Um. I guess I needed to process that experience a tiny bit…Hope nobody ever needs any of those tips.

  23. Jonah Lisa on 13 Jan 2009 at 9:24 pm

    I have a new one I ran into when my infant had to go in for jaundice–have a PHONE CARD in your wallet or your pre-packed overnight toiletry bag. You usually can’t make a long distance call and sometimes cell phones are prohibited or service is spotty.

    Jonah Lisa’s last blog post..Digging Out

  24. minnemom on 14 Jan 2009 at 7:24 am

    A phone card is a great idea; and one that’s activated. I think the one in my wallet is five years old and probably not good any more.

  25. [...] and they’ve been taking care of my other three children, and, good or bad, I’ve had hospital experience with children before, so I knew some of what to [...]

  26. slamaina on 11 Mar 2011 at 3:38 pm

    Excellent list. As a mother of three, I have been there. The biggest thing I have learned from my experiences, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Also be polite and cheerful to the staff, it really does make a difference in how they interact with you and your child.

    This list can also be applied to adults too. My mom was in a car accident and was in the ICU for two months. I hopped on a plane and spent two months bedside while my hubby took care out three kids at home 1000 miles away. Having a emergency at the ready was a great help.

  27. [...] Have a bag of toiletries packed at all times. I used to forget the simple things, like my toothbrush or hairspray.  A few years ago, I bought a hanging toiletry bag and I just keep an extra set of everything in there.  Combs, shampoo, makeup basics, etc. stay in this bag at all times.  If I want to add extra things, I can, but at least the basics are always covered.  This has also come in handy when we’ve had unexpected hospital stays. [...]

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