woman hugging little girl

Making the unknown less scary

The unknown can be scary particularly for a child facing surgery. Michael Garron Hospital’s Paediatric Pre-operative Assessment Clinic helps children and their parents address uncertainty around the surgical experience.

The unknown can be scary particularly for a child facing surgery. Michael Garron Hospital’s Paediatric Pre-operative Assessment Clinic, where Scotiabank's generous support of the hospital is recognized, offers an opportunity for children and their parents to address uncertainty around the surgical experience. Parents and children can learn about the process, prepare for the day of surgery and talk about any questions or concerns they might have.

The clinic is available for all families with children up to age 17 who are scheduled for surgery at the hospital. It runs three times a week for groups of up to 12 children and teens, or more frequently if the need arise.  

During the clinic, a specialist works with the children to help them understand what they can expect on the day of surgery.

“Our goal is to desensitize children to the surgical experience, and make the hospital seem a less scary place,” says Diana Tustin, Child Life Specialist. “One of the first questions I ask a child is ‘do you know why you’re here?’ ”I would say that 90 per cent know, but some do not. So this experience is even more important for those children.”

A hands-on approach to the surgical experience 

The clinic provides children with the opportunity to see, touch and feel the medical equipment and instruments they’ll see on the day of their surgery, so that it becomes more familiar. Activities might include talking about the induction mask and the IV, taking blood pressure and temperature, getting on the scale, and looking at the hospital pyjamas and bracelet that they’ll wear. Children will also visit the waiting room and playroom outside the operating area, and eat popsicles – the first food most children will be allowed after surgery.

During the pre-op visit, parents fill out paperwork with the nurse and learn about what’s expected before and after the surgery. Preparing children, and their parents, helps to calm fears, dispel misconceptions and build confidence and trust. The end result is less stress and a more enjoyable overall experience for everyone.

Setting expectations

 “The Paediatric Pre-operative Assessment Clinic not only provides children and parents with pre-op information and education, it also prepares them psychologically,” explains Diana. “Children and families have clear expectations for the day of surgery, and patient compliance and satisfaction are also increased.”

“Parents who attend clinic often express how grateful they are for the experience and how much more relaxed and confident they are on the day of surgery,” Diana says. “A patient recently shared with me how excited he was to have surgery because, ‘Now I know everyone who is going to help me!’”

“Having the pre-op appointment made a world of difference for me and my 3-year old son. We knew where we were going and what to expect. The child life specialist offered great feedback on how to help prepare him for surgery. We talked about it in the week leading up and it made the whole day - which could have been traumatic - run smoothly. This program is invaluable at soothing stressed parents and anxious children.” - Julia Loewi, parent

A consolidated space

As part of our $500-million redevelopment project, we will consolidate a wide range of outpatient paediatric programs into one comprehensive Paediatric Centre. This completely renovated, bright, child-and family-friendly space on the second floor of our existing G wing, will provide multiple supports for families and enhance collaboration amongst children’s health care providers.