A parent’s guide to pediatric hospital care
When your child has a medical emergency, they may need to spend some time in the hospital. Here’s some information to help prepare for your child’s hospital stay.
What’s a pediatric unit?
A pediatric unit is a section of the hospital just for children who need to be admitted into the hospital for their medical care. In the pediatric unit, the staff are trained to care for infants, children and teens.
Pediatric patient rooms are specially designed so the care team can closely monitor vital signs, such as heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen levels.
Units have playful décor to help distract children who don’t feel well and benefit from a comfortable environment tailored for them.
Who works in the pediatric unit?
In a pediatric unit, children are under the care of specialists called pediatric hospitalists, who are passionate about children and understand they aren’t just small adults. Think of them as general pediatricians who work in a hospital instead of a doctor’s office.
Registered nurses, who have chosen to devote their knowledge and skills to nursing children, provide hands-on care. They take vital signs, give medications, administer IV fluids and much more. They know something as simple as letting a child choose a Band-aid or decide which arm to use for a blood pressure check can help children feel better.
A social worker and case manager also help families access the resources they need while a child is in the hospital.
What goes on in the unit?
Most children are continuously monitored in pediatric units. Wires are connected to their body and chest with small painless stickers. That’s what informs the doctors and nurses about their child’s heart rate and breathing rate.
A painless device called a pulse oximetry meter may be placed on the child’s finger or taped to their toe to check for blood oxygen levels.
A painless small tube called a nasal cannula may be inserted in nostrils to deliver extra oxygen to the child.
Tests may be ordered to help a doctor diagnose and care for the patient. Some tests require blood draws and urine.
A child may be brought to radiology for an X-ray, ultrasound, CT scan or MRI, which gives the care team a good look into the body.
How can I support my child?
Parents and legal guardians are welcome to stay by the child’s bedside 24 hours a day, and siblings are encouraged to visit.
Play and interaction with other children can be a vital part of the healing process, and if a child is allowed by their doctor, use of the recreation room is encouraged.
You can also bring a child’s favorite blanket or stuffed animal and school-work to the hospital for longer stays.
The bottom line: You are the best person to interpret your child’s needs and wants as well as to monitor improvements or spot anything that seems unusual. Your input is vital, so please speak up.