As a parent, it’s your job to monitor everything that is going on with your child when they are in the hospital. Be sure that there is an adult that is familiar with your child and your child’s needs the entire time your child is in the hospital. When they take your child for things like x-rays, physical therapy, etc. You should be there with them at all times. If well-meaning staff tells you there is no reason for you to accompany your child, thank them and go anyway. They don’t know your child like you do.
One mom’s example:
“Three nurses came in to start an IV on my seven year old son. As they came in they started talking fast and completely ignored me while beginning to surround him. Before I knew it, they were all putting gloves on and reaching for him. “Wait just a minute!” I said as I picked him up as he beginning to panic. “Everyone out except for one nurse.” I demanded. They all looked at me like I was crazy, but they all left.
Andrew and I have an understanding that no one understands. He knows that I will explain everything to him step by step and I won’t let them hold him down if he holds still. He knows he can cry, scream, kick his feet and whatever he needs to do but he can’t move his arm. If I had not been there they would have held him down and in doing so causing him to panic and undoing all that he and I had worked on for the last 7 years.”
Some tips for when your child is in the hospital:
- Do not ask the staff for help with your own personal needs. Take care of your own food, drink and hygiene needs. Ask the staff where you can these things and ask what the particular hospital policies are but they are not there to take care of you they are there to take care of your child.
- Protect you and your child from additional hospital-acquired infections, especially at times like RSV season, which is usually during the winter months and is spread by respiratory particles, or through contact with contaminated objects, such as bathroom fixtures or even clothing. Things like this can even be transmitted by doctors and nurses using the same stethoscope and blood pressure cuffs on your child as the ones they use on children who have things such as RSV. Keep rub-in hand cleanser at the bedside: use it yourself, and offer it to professionals and staff before they touch your child.
- Since both children and hospitals tend to be sticky, bring along a container of disposable antibacterial/antiviral wipes, and frequently clean off the surfaces that need it most — TV remotes, telephones (including your own cell), door knobs, bed control buttons, toys and dolls.
- Get to know your surroundings. Early on, read the rules and regulations that are posted in each room. Get to know where the nurses station is, the emergency exit, the source of drinkable water, and the public or visitors bathroom (unless you can use a private bathroom.) What services are there? Food delivered to the parents, playroom, toys, in-room, DVD’s, or internet access? What is the visitor policy? Locate the call button for the nurse, locate the phone and read the directions, locate the lights and TV controls. Figure out how the bed buttons and side rails work. These sound like small, simple steps, but every hospital has different ways of doing things and you need to know what your hospital does and expects.
- Know where you are going to sleep before night falls, and get acquainted with that piece of furniture.
- Ask the nurse to tell you about each line and tube that is connected to your child to deliver oxygen, fluids, medication, blood, and liquid feedings; to collect for the lab or to evacuate stomach contents, urine, drainage, pus and air pockets. Each line should be clearly identified, so that fluids and medication do not go into the wrong tube.
- Keep a watchful eye when any substance is injected into a line. If you think someone is about to make an error, speak up at once, but try to be vigilant, not offensive. “I’m sorry to interrupt, but I thought that line was an arterial line, and they said nothing should be put into it.” Ask questions and don’t be afraid to speak up.
- If a change in treatment or procedure is being made make sure you understand what is and why. If the person doing the procedure is one you don t know or isn’t something that makes sense to you ASK.
“While my 7-year old was sick and in the hospital the nurse was having trouble getting an accurate temperature on him. She came in once and took it under the arm and got something close to normal. “That’s not right,” I said. “It’s at least 102.” I said feeling his lower stomach where he holds his fever. She looked at me like I had lost my mind once again, but took it again, this time under his tongue. It showed 101. She left then came back in a few minutes later. “I’m sorry.” She said. “The resident has ordered a rectal temperature on him.” She said, looking embarrassed. “No you’re not.” I told her. I thought, ON A 7 YEAR OLD! NOT! So I asked what the reason for this was since at 7 it didn’t matter if it was 101 or 102.
“What difference does it make?” She said she didn’t know, but the doctor had ordered it. I told her to get the doctor to come and explain to me why they would put a 7 year old through a rectal temperature. She looked horrified.
She came back a few minutes later looking even more shaken and said “The resident thought he was 7 months old.” Scary, isn’t it?
- Your child may be hooked up to monitors that keep up with signals your child’s body puts out. Most commonly, monitors measure heart and breathing rate, blood pressure (how hard the heart needs to work), and the blood supply of oxygen. Be sure you know what the monitors are and what the normal numbers for your child should be.
- Monitors can’t monitor everything such as how your child is feeling, talking, behaving, or how he “looks” just before he throws up. They also can’t announce that even though the numbers are within “normal” range such as over an hour the Oxygen Saturation falls from 100 to 93 there is clearly something wrong, but the alarms don’t go off. To spot the trend, somebody’s got to be watching the child. That’s what nurses used to do, back in the day–they would get to know their small patients and be alert to such changes. Now it’s up to YOU.
- If you think your child’s condition is changing for the worse, call a nurse.
- Nurses appreciate gifts but even better, bring them real help. A positive attitude that assumes that they know what they are doing and have your child’s best interests at heart. A note of praise to the nurse, with a copy to the supervisor and the head of the hospital, goes a lot farther than chocolates. If you really want to bring a treat, fresh fruit is appreciated even more than processed sweets by most nursing staffs.