Thinking about an upcoming hospital stay can make people feel a little worried.
But if you need to go to the hospital, knowing what to expect before you get there can
make things a little easier.
Why Do People Go to the Hospital?
People need to go to the hospital for different reasons. Some may be admitted
to the hospital through the emergency department for problems that need immediate
medical treatment. Others are scheduled for admission to have surgery, special medication,
or other treatments prescribed by their doctors.
What Happens When I Get There?
If you do need to stay in the hospital, you'll first go through the admissions
process. The admissions staff will take some information about you and fill in paperwork.
Then you'll be taken to your room in the inpatient area.
Many hospitals have floors or areas just for hospitalized kids and teens, with
staff that better understand younger people and have special training in working with
them. Other hospitals, called pediatric hospitals, specialize in
the care of kids and teens.
What Are Hospital Rooms Like?
In many ways, a hospital room is a lot like any bedroom. You'll have the typical
furniture, like a bed, a bedside table, and a chair. Your room will probably also
have a window, and usually a phone and TV. Most hospital rooms have bathrooms
within the room.
You may have to share your room with another patient, but private rooms are sometimes
available. If you share a room, you will probably be rooming with someone close to
your own age.
Some hospitals also let a parent sleep in their kid's room. If you'd like
a parent's company overnight, check with the hospital staff in advance to find out
if they can arrange this.
Who Will I See in the Hospital?
In most cases, it won't be just one doctor, or just the doctor you're used to,
taking care of you in the hospital.
In many larger hospitals — especially children's hospitals — nurses,
nurse's aides, and therapists will also take part in your care. In some hospitals,
doctors also work with medical students who are training to be doctors, and resident
doctors who are getting additional training in a specialty, like pediatrics. You're
likely to meet hospital volunteers as well.
Nurses are often the first people you meet when you get to the hospital. When you
arrive, a nurse will ask you questions about your medical history and any symptoms
you may have. He or she will get you settled into your hospital room and take
your vital signs, which include your temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate.
Nurses will also help you during your stay, and they can offer you some great tips
on how to take care of yourself both during and after your stay — they might
recommend stuff like putting a plastic bag over a cast when you shower to protect
it. When you first arrive in your room, find out where the call button is so you can
contact a nurse for assistance if you need help.
A doctor will supervise the care you receive while you're in the hospital, working
closely with other caregivers. Your doctor might be a general pediatrician or a family
doctor, who treats many kinds of medical problems that kids and teens have. Or your
doctor may be a specialist with extra training in specific problems, like heart
or kidney problems. The kind of doctor you'll have depends on the reason why
you're in the hospital.
Here are a few of the medical personnel or specialists you might encounter:
Anesthesiologist: An anesthesiologist or certified registered
nurse anesthetist (CRNA) administers medicine just before surgery
to keep you asleep during the procedure. The anesthesiologist is present during the
operation to watch over you and make sure you have no pain.
Surgeon: A surgeon is the person who operates on you if
you are having surgery.
Specialists: Some doctors are experts in specific fields, like
cardiology (the heart and circulatory system), pulmonology (the lungs), or oncology
Child life specialist: A child life specialist is trained to
talk to kids and teens about medical procedures and other parts of the hospital stay.
They comfort patients if they are upset about something or need some extra support,
and organize "play time" for hospitalized kids and teens to get together and hang
Medical student, intern, or resident: These are doctors-in-training
or doctors who are learning a specialty such as pediatrics or surgery.
IV team and phlebotomists: Many hospitals have an IV team that
does IV placement (an IV is a small straw-like tube that is placed into a vein under
the skin to directly give someone fluids or medicines) or phlebotomists who draw any
blood that is needed for tests.
Some specialists aren't doctors, but have training in specific areas of health
care. A respiratory therapist, for example, helps teens who are having
trouble breathing by giving breathing treatments or providing oxygen.
If you have to have a special diet while you're in the hospital, a dietitian
will plan balanced meals to meet your nutritional needs. A physical therapist
may help you move your joints and muscles and develop strength after surgery or an
What Medical Tests Might I Have?
Many of the medical tests you'll have in the hospital are less painful than a 10-question
If a nurse asks you to pee
in a cup, don't be surprised — your urine may be checked for bacteria, protein,
sugar, and other things you probably never thought much about before. You may have
your blood drawn so laboratory technicians can test it to evaluate whether there are
any problems. Other samples may be taken and tested, depending on the reason you are
in the hospital.
Several tests are used to create images of the body. One common type of imaging
test is an X-ray. X-rays use small amounts of radiation to penetrate the body and
form an images of your bones and organs on film.
Other common imaging tests include:
Computed tomography(CT or CAT)scan:
This uses special X-rays and computer enhancement to create a more detailed 3-D-like
image of body parts, especially internal organs.
Ultrasound: An ultrasound study uses sound waves to produce images
of internal organs like the kidneys or liver. Ultrasounds can look for fluid inside
the belly and are commonly used to monitor an unborn baby's growth during pregnancy.
Echocardiogram: This special ultrasound test uses sound waves
to examine the heart in detail.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): MRI uses magnets and radio
waves to produce extremely clear, detailed images of body organs, including the brain.
MRIs are often used to diagnose sports
injuries, especially those involving muscles and ligaments (the tough tissue that
Some teens with serious illnesses or injuries may have to stay in the hospital
for weeks, months, or even longer. This means a person's school life, relationships
with friends, and extracurricular activities may be interrupted so they can receive
extensive medical treatment. But these interruptions don't mean your life has to be
put on hold.
Many hospitals, especially those that treat only kids and teens, have classes available
to patients. Through these hospital schools, you can receive academic credit for your
attendance and achievement. You'll still have homework, but the school will often
provide teachers, tutors, computer access, and other tools you need to complete your
education. In addition, the hospital's school program will often help you make the
transition back into your school when your doctor says you may return.
Despite the support of your family and doctors, you may still feel sad and lonely
sometimes. Teens who spend a lot of time in the hospital have a lot to deal with,
so being frustrated, upset, and even angry is completely understandable.
One of the hardest things about being in the hospital for a while is that people
miss out on social activities with their friends. Although people who have long hospital
stays may be able to stay in touch with friends via phone, social media, and email,
sometimes it just isn't the same.
Here are a few coping strategies:
Have a party at your place. Your friends may not understand that
you want them to visit you in the hospital. After checking with your nurse, invite
them to visit you and play cards, watch videos, or just hang out. Maybe they could
even bring in a pizza (if your doctor or nurse says it’s OK for you to eat it!).
Make some new friends. Ask your child life specialists for names
of secure online bulletin boards, chat rooms, and networking sites for teens
with your medical condition.
Try the Teen Room. Many pediatric hospitals have special rooms
or lounges just for teens. Teen rooms are often stocked with magazines, video games,
art supplies, and music.
Find your release. Whether it's drawing, keeping a journal, making
music, or talking, everyone needs a way to relieve stress.
Find your own way to de-stress and do it daily.