Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt
Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt
Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt
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Monroe Carell Jr.
Children's Hospital
at Vanderbilt
2200 Children's Way
Nashville, TN 37232

(615) 936-1000

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Home / Guide for Families and Visitors / For Families / Your Child's Visit / Preparing for a Hospital or Clinic Visit
GUIDE to Children's Hospital
For Patients and Families
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Preparing for a Hospital or Clinic Visit

Preparing your child for the hospital or clinic

Your child may have many questions and concerns about a hospital or clinic visit. You can reduce your child's fears by providing honest, gentle information. When and what you tell your child about the hospital visit depends on your child's age, developmental level, and experiences. Generally,

  • Toddlers should be told the day of or only a day ahead of time.
  • Pre-schoolers and young school-age children should be told about two or three days ahead of time.
  • Older school age children and teens may need more time to think about things and may be told a week or more before the visit to the hospital or clinic. For this age group, it is important to involve your child in the care and treatment plan when possible. This range varies for every child, and you know your children best.

Care partner with child in hospital

Talk to your child or teen
  • Children and teens like to know what they will see, hear, feel, smell and taste.
  • Listen to your child for specific fears and concerns.
  • Explain things with simple answers and be honest, even if hospital experiences will hurt or be uncomfortable. Knowing the truth will help your child be prepared for even unpleasant experiences.
  • Child life, nursing, and medical staff are available to prepare you and help you prepare your child.

The importance of play

Children learn about their world and gain control of their experiences through play. Before the hospital or clinic visit, let your child play "doctor" or "hospital" with a toy medical kit and read books about the hospital. Teens may appreciate the opportunity to talk with other teens that have had similar experiences. Observing and engaging in play may help you learn about any misunderstandings your child or teen has and prepare for the hospital experience. Some concerns or ideas your child has may seem silly, but children often see things differently from adults. It is important for you to understand and address what might be worrisome from your child's point of view. Learn more about Medical Play.

More information

The Junior League Family Resource Center has many books and videos available to help your child or teen prepare for a visit to the hospital or clinic. You may also want to visit our online health and wellness library for additional resources.

If you would like further information about supporting your child, contact the Child Life department at (615) 936-4575.

Last Edited: July 11, 2016
Valued Participant of Vanderbilt Health Affiliated Network