Prepping for Procedures

Children do a better job of coping with medical experiences if they know what to expect. That’s where child life specialists can help. Through the use of child-friendly language and tools, the child life specialist can help prepare your child for procedures and medical tests.

Child life specialists are available in most units of Kentucky Children’s Hospital. We’re happy to partner with you to help your child understand medical tests and procedures. Whether your child is getting an IV or an X-ray or having surgery, we can help make the experience a better one for your child.

Tips for medical procedures

These pages provide helpful information for preparing for common pediatric medical procedures:

Helping your child prepare for a medical procedure

There are several things you can do to help your child before and after a procedure:

  • Prepare yourself: If possible, learning about the procedure may help you feel calmer and be able to better support your child during the procedure.
  • Be honest: Tell your child what is going to happen and why the procedure is needed. Use words your child will understand and avoid words that may be scary. This will help your child have trust in you and the medical team.
  • Reassure your child: Let your child know it’s normal to feel afraid or sad and to express those feelings. Comfort your child and explain that other children often feel the same way.
  • Provide age-appropriate information: Use your child’s age as a guide for how much or how little information you offer about the procedure. Encourage your child to ask questions, but look for signs that your child doesn’t want any more information, such as looking away or changing the topic.
  • Give accurate information: Explain what your child may see and feel during a procedure. For instance, if a child is getting an IV inserted, you can say, “There will be a tight rubber band on your arm and then a pinch that hurts for a few seconds. If you take three deep breaths, this will help your body stay still and calm.” Ask your child’s medical team for information about the procedure if you aren’t sure how to describe it.

What to do during a medical procedure

You can help your child cope during a procedure by offering support and distractions. Remember that it’s OK for a child to cry during a procedure.

Give your child a job

During the procedure, give your child a job. Jobs may include:

  • Taking deep breaths
  • Squeezing your hand
  • Hugging a comfort item
  • Keeping their body still

Offer a distraction

You can also offer your child something else to focus on, such as watching a favorite TV show or looking at a book or toy. However, some children do better with procedures if they are able to watch, so find out what your child prefers.

After the procedure

Once the procedure is over, give your child big hugs and plenty of praise for accomplishing something challenging. Tell your child what they did well by saying things like: “You did a great job keeping your arm still” or “You were really good at taking deep breaths.”

Talk to a child life specialist

For more help with preparing for a procedure, please contact our Child Life office at 859-323-6551 or email us.