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When Your Child Is in the Hospital

If your family comes to the hospital because of a sudden emergency, there may not have been time to plan out every step as carefully as you would for something expected. But with just a little time to plan, a bit of organization should help the whole experience go much more smoothly. Hopefully this small article will help with planning.

Things to take to the hospital

  • Your insurance card, if you have one, and photo identification
  • A cell phone, calling card or credit card for making calls
  • A favorite blanket, pillow, and/or stuffed animal or other toy
  • Diaper supplies if needed
  • Medications, including over-the-counter products for yourself if needed
  • Cash for parking, meals and other incidentals
  • Something to read, both for yourself and for your child
  • A change of clothes and basic toiletries for yourself and your child
  • Water and an easy snack
  • Zip lock bags
  • Tissues
  • Pen and paper and whatever you use for a calendar for making follow-up appointments
  • Address book, including relatives to be notified and other physicians
  • A list of medications the child takes

Childcare for the other siblings

Dad and kids in the waiting roomIf you can, try to find someone trustworthy to look after your other children while you attend to your youngster's needs. If you have willing, nearby relatives or close friends who are familiar to the kids, you are fortunate indeed. At their best, hospitals are rather boring places. Even if your hospital facility has a play area for children, it is unlikely to hold their attention for longer than half an hour...just enough to get into the doctor's office if things are going smoothly. If the sibs are old enough to know what's going on, they may be worried but if it's not a true crisis they will probably be better off in their own home. Having them with someone trustworthy will let you relax and focus on the child who needs help.

Children's Houses

For families needing to spend the night during their children's treatments, most larger hospitals have housing tailored to their situation. For little to no cost, an out-of-town family with a child who is undergoing medical care can often use these facilities regardless of income. The rooms are comfortable if not fancy, and there are usually toy and television areas for playtime. Residents will often be asked to tidy up after themselves and can cook their own meals in group kitchens.

Sometimes outside organizations will come by to provide meals and other activities which may range from a storytime to pet therapy to even the occasional massage. The Ronald McDonald Houses are some of the best-known of these but many hospitals will also have other housing. It is necessary to check with each facility to see what its rules and requirements are, but if a family is able and willing to abide by them, these houses can provide a welcome relief during difficult times. If you are not sure whether such a facility exists near your hospital, check with a patient care coordinator.


All and all, there will likely be fussy, difficult moments but most nurses and other patients understand that this is a stressful time for your family. By simply doing your calm and grown-up best, your child will be more relaxed and like as not you will be, too.

Books to Help

For the Kids
Dad and son with book in the hospitalHospital gowns, bandages, needle sticks, cold corridors, loud machines, sleeping away from home--all of these are strange and potentially scary things for kids. The library has a number of books to help them understand what they will be experiencing. Check out one before you go.

Do I Have to Go to the Hospital? A First Look at Going to the Hospital by Pat Thomas

Going to the Hospital by Fred Rogers

Let's Talk About Going to the Hospital by Marianne Johnston

When Molly Was in the Hospital: A Book for Brothers and Sisters of Hospitalized Children by Debbie Duncan

For You
Even though you are grown up, a little support could be good for you as well. The library has books and articles on many specific conditions, but these general sources would be a beginning.

America's Top Doctors: America's Trusted Source for Identifying Top Doctors
Available to browse in the reference sections of Porter, Headquarters, and Salem Church libraries.

Parenting Children with Health Issues: Essential Tools, Tips, and Tactics for Raising Kids with Chronic Illness, Medical Conditions & Special Healthcare Needs by Foster W. Cline and Lisa C. Greene

Your Child in the Hospital: A Practical Guide for Parents by Nancy Keene & Rachel Prentice

Online, check out our Health Answers section for practical information on a wide variety of topics.