You might go to the hospital if you fall off your bike and break your arm, or if you have asthma and have trouble breathing. You might go to the hospital if you need special medicine that can't be given at home, or if you need to have surgery to take out your tonsils.
It may seem a little scary to go to a hospital, but people who work at hospitals, like doctors or nurses, are there to help people who are sick or hurt feel better. Read on to find out what happens inside a hospital.
There are two ways to be admitted to a hospital. Your doctor might send you because he or she needs to find out about something going on inside your body or because you need special medicine, surgery, or other treatment for health problems. Your doctor will call the hospital to tell them that you're coming, and someone will meet you there to take you to your room.
The other way kids are admitted to a hospital is through the emergency room. You might go to the emergency room if you are very sick, especially if your doctor or parent feels that you need medical attention right away. If you need to sleep at the hospital, a nurse or doctor will take you and your parents to your hospital room.
When you go into the hospital, you will probably see your mom or dad fill out a lot of different papers. It's important that the hospital has your name, address, phone number, and other information, like if you have any allergies. You might be asked a lot of questions (sometimes again and again) like your name, your birthday, and how you are feeling. If you don't understand a question, you should ask your parents or a nurse to explain.
Sometimes you will have a room all to yourself, or sometimes you will share one with another kid. Your room will have a bed, with buttons to push that will make the bed move up or down. A curtain can be pulled around your bed so that you can have some privacy while you're resting or changing clothes. There are usually lights that you can turn on and off, and there is a special button to push that will call the nurse if you need anything. You'll probably have a bathroom in your room.
You'll probably also have a TV and a telephone in your room to help you keep busy while you're in the hospital.
In many hospitals, you can wear anything you want - like your own pajamas or bathrobe. Sometimes you might have to wear a special hospital gown that makes it easier for the doctor or nurse to examine you.
Almost every hospital will let one or both of your parents stay with you all the time, even while you're sleeping in your room. During the day, sisters, brothers, grandparents, and friends can visit, and you'll have a phone to call people you want to talk to. You can always have things in the hospital that remind you of home, like pictures of your family, stuffed animals, books, or toys.
There are lots of people you will meet in the hospital, from the moment you arrive until you're ready to leave. You might meet as many as 50 people just on your first day!
First, you'll probably meet a nurse, who will admit you to the hospital, take you to your room, and show you around the hospital floor so you'll know where things are.
Next, you might see your own doctor, as well as a medical student (someone who is learning to be a doctor). You also might see a specialist - that's a person who is an expert in a certain kind of medical problem or part of the body. If you are in the hospital because you are having trouble with your asthma, for example, you might see a lung specialist or allergist who will help you with your breathing.
You might also meet a child life specialist - that's a person whose job it is to make sure that kids in the hospital understand what's going on and help them feel more comfortable about their hospital stays.
There are even more people you might see! Transport people will take you from place to place; volunteers bring newspapers to parents or play with kids in the playroom; and therapists will show you how to use pieces of equipment, like crutches, if you need them.
If you have surgery, you will meet an anesthesiologist before the operation. His or her job is to help you sleep with anesthesia. This way you won't feel anything while your doctor operates on you.
On the day of surgery, you won't be able to eat breakfast because you can't have an operation on a full stomach. But you might get fluids through your IV so you won't get hungry or thirsty. An IV is a tiny tube that carries medicine or fluids into your body through a vein, usually in your arm or hand.
A nurse will wheel you on a special bed to the operating room, where you'll go to sleep. The hospital staff will explain what will happen and what you'll need to do. If you have any questions, you should always ask!
When you wake up, you'll either be back in your room or in a special recovery room - that's a room where nurses can keep checking on you to make sure you're OK.
You will probably get some tests taken while you're in the hospital. Sometimes the tests are done on blood taken from a vein in your arm - that can pinch a little, but it won't hurt much. Sometimes the tests are taken with an X-ray, where a special camera takes a picture of a part of your body. This helps doctors see the bones and tissues inside your body.
If there is a test you don't understand, you should ask the doctor or nurse to explain it to you.
Most hospitals have playrooms, where you'll find toys, crafts, and games. Someone will be there to help you find something to do. If you can't go to the playroom, someone can bring you things to play with. Most hospitals have televisions or video games, and many have computers (with games!) that can be brought to your bed. Also, most hospitals may have special visitors, like clowns or story characters.
It's normal to be a little nervous when going to the hospital. But remember:
- Your family will be with you.
- There are other kids in the hospital who are probably going through the same kind of thing.
- There are lots of people, like doctors and nurses, to answer any questions you might have. Don't be afraid to ask!
- You can have things that remind you of home, like your own pillow, stuffed animals, books, toys, or games.
- One nice thing about being in the hospital: lots of kids get flowers, balloons, cards, gifts, and candies.
Updated and reviewed by: Kim Rutherford, MD
Date reviewed: June 2001
Originally reviewed by: Steve Dowshen, MD, and Lisa Zaoutis, MD
KidsHealth www.KidsHealth.com is a project of The Nemours Foundation which is dedicated to improving the health and spirit of children. Today, as part of its continuing mission, the Foundation supports the operation of a number of renowned children's health facilities throughout the nation, including the Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Delaware, and the Nemours Children's Clinics throughout Florida. Visit The Nemours Foundation to find out more about them and its health facilities for children http://www.nemours.org/no/