Hospital 101
Estrelita has some great tips for parents on improving their hospital etiquette.
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My two-year-old son was recently hospitalised for the better part of two weeks with various antibiotic-resistant super bugs. He was also subjected to numerous chest physio sessions, nebulising treatments and painful antibiotic injections – traumatic for him, traumatic for me. So to say my nerves were frayed and that I was beyond tired would be an understatement. But as parents, we all find ways to cope, and you do what you have to...

How to be a better parent of a patient

And not that there should be some kind of hospital etiquette for the parents of sick kids, but one does observe a couple of things.  Some of it made me distinctly uncomfortable. So here goes, just a few thoughts.

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While most are willing to watch your child for a few minutes if you step out for a coffee, or to get a bite to eat, nurses in a busy paediatric ward are not a baby-sitting service.  Especially if your child is a baby or toddler – they are traumatised enough as it is, don’t make it any more traumatic than it needs to be. While circumstances vary, and one may not be able to be there 24/7, if your child is very young find someone familiar who can be with them that can relieve you when you need it. With older children you can explain things - with the younger ones, not so much!

Nurses are also not athletes, and are not there to run after your child. And yes, toddlers get restless in paediatric wards, and there is a tendency towards running up and down. Little one can do to stop it.....but do the running after them yourself.

Get used to hospital time

Paediatricians (and gynaecologists) seldom run to schedule! (True story) Emergencies happen...little people are unpredictable, so if your doctor is a tad late for ward rounds there is usually a valid reason. Be patient. Biting their heads off won’t help. It’s also just plain unnecessary.

As far as possible try and be there when treatments happen....whether it be a nebuliser, injection...certainly for a physio session. It’s a horrible and often painful and uncomfortable experience for your child. I watched an 8-month-old undergo horrible chest physio with no one but the physio with her....and when the session was done, she was put in her cot, to lie on her own with no one to comfort or cuddle her, till one of her parents eventually arrived. There will be procedures that are not nice to watch, and yes, sometimes you will be asked to leave, but at least try and be present. It’s really helpful for your child, and to whomever is doing the treatment.

If nurses ask you dispense meds on occasion, do so. More than likely you have to do it once you’re home, so make sure you know what you are doing. And no, it’s not doing their work for them. Your child is probably less likely to fight it (well, in theory anyway) if it comes from you!

Isolation rooms are just that: isolation rooms. If your paediatrician and nurses are taking precautions, chances are so should you. And it’s probably not a good idea for siblings to visit when they in all likelihood will contract the same diseases.

Try and keep the totkins busy. Most tots aren’t really old enough to watch the TV and use the headset. Take toys, take a laptop if you have one with a selection of favourite movies (to be played at a reasonable volume of course!). Take whatever soft toy provides comfort for the little ones, something familiar- something that says home. Bring snacks from home, even, but be reasonable: chips laden with various synthetic spices probably are not a good idea for a child with a chest problem. Neither are sweets (and coke) in the morning...

Ban those family reunions in the wards!

Visiting time can get busy and noisy...bear in mind that you are still in a hospital, in a paediatric ward where there are sick children who are there for good reason. Hordes of visitors can be disruptive, especially if you are sharing a room. And while it may be the only time of day you will see other family members, including your other children, it’s probably not the ideal venue for a full-on takeaway family dinner. A little consideration goes a long way.

And lastly, don’t be scared to ask questions. If you aren’t sure, rather do. And if your gut tells you something is amiss, go with that. You are the parent, and you know your child.

What tips would you add to improve hospital etiquette?

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