Preparing for Your Child’s Surgery

We understand that any type of surgery may be stressful to both you and your child. To assist in the process, we’ve developed the guide below to help prepare you for what to expect.

Please note that while based on a thorough knowledge and careful review of current medical literature, the following information is the opinion of the pediatric surgeons at The Bristol-Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and is presented to inform you about surgical conditions. It is not meant to contradict any information you may receive from your personal physician and should not be used to make decisions about surgical treatment.

If you have any questions about this information, or your child’s care, contact our doctors at any time at (732) 253-3512.

After your pre-operative appointment expect to:

  • Schedule your child’s surgery.
    Your surgeon's office will call you to schedule your procedure. They can also assist with insurance information.

  • Make an appointment to participate in our family teaching program.
    The Family Teaching Program is a free program for parents and children to prepare the child for upcoming surgery. As a part of the Child Life Program, the goal of the family teaching program is to educate pediatric patients and their families and to ease fears of the surgical experience. The teaching program provides classes and preoperative tours to all children having surgery at the Bristol-Myers Squibb Children's Hospital.

The day before your child’s surgery expect to:

  • Receive a call about arrival time.
    A nurse from pediatric same day surgery will call you one business day before your child’s scheduled procedure between 5:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. when the schedule for the next day is finalized. Please note that no calls are made on weekends or holidays and calls for surgery on Monday are made on Friday. The nurse will tell you what time to arrive at the hospital and give you instructions about eating and drinking. If you do not receive a phone call by 9:00 p.m., please call pediatric same day surgery at (732) 253-3510 (3512) (Monday through Friday); after hours (9:00 p.m.) or weekends call admitting at (732) 937-8605.

  • Check your child’s health.
    If your child is not feeling well or you have to reschedule your surgery call (732) 253-3512 between the hours of 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. After 9:00 p.m. call (732) 937-8605. Please also let us know if your child has been exposed to infectious diseases such as measles, mumps or chickenpox, has had any change in her usual health, or had any aspirin or ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) or any products containing them in the past two weeks.

  • Talk to your child before surgery.
    Discuss the next day’s events with your child in terms he or she will understand. Schedule an appointment for our family teaching program before surgery to meet your child’s individual needs and ease the fears of his procedure.

  • Prepare your child for surgery.
    Have your child take a bath or shower and wash his or her hair the night before the procedure. Have your child remove all nail polish and jewelry.

  • Make necessary arrangements.
    Make necessary childcare arrangements for your other children so you can be with your child who is in the hospital. Let concerned relatives and friends know your child’s surgery time and identify a contact person who can call others to give updates. Finalize transportation arrangements.

  • Pack your bags.
    If your child is staying overnight, pack a suitcase with a change of clothes for you and your child.

The day of surgery expect to:

  • Allow for travel time.
    When you arrive at the hospital, pull into the U-shaped front entrance of The Bristol-Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital on Somerset Street. Valet parking is available Monday through Friday starting at 6:00 a.m. Enter the children’s hospital main entrance and check in at the registration desk in the “Pediatric Same Day Surgery” area. After you check in, you and your child will be escorted to an exam room.

  • Be examined.
    Once you arrive and check in the staff will begin to prepare your child for his or her procedure. In the exam room your child will change into hospital pajamas and receive a hospital identification bracelet with her name, birthday and hospital number on it. The nurse will take her vital signs, including temperature, heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen level and will listen to your child's breathing and get an update on her health status, including any medicines or illnesses. After the exam, you and your child can stay in the exam room, return to the registration area for play activities, or browse the family resource center until it is time to go to the operating room. Please do not eat or drink in the preoperative area.

  • Meet with the anesthesiologist.
    Before your child goes to the operating room, you will meet our anesthesiologist to review the anesthesia plan and pain control after surgery plan. We will ask you about your child’s medical history. Please ask questions or express any concerns at this time.

  • Meet with the surgeon.
    One of our surgeons will also see you to make sure your child is ready for the surgery and answer any questions you have.

  • Enter the operating room.
    When it is time for surgery, an operating room staff member will verify your child's identity and the procedure. We offer a parent present induction program where one parent may stay with the child until he or she is asleep depending on your child’s age, medical history and emotional needs.

During surgery expect to:

  • Wait while your child is in surgery.
    We will show you where to wait while your child is in surgery. You will understandably feel anxious during this time, so try to take care of yourself. Find something that relaxes you such as reading a book, doing needlework or writing a letter.

  • Take care of yourself.
    There are food and beverages available in the lobby just outside the pediatric same day surgery suite. The restrooms are located in the lobby of the children’s hospital and the dining room is located on the second floor. The family resource center is located next to the pediatric same day surgery suite and features Internet access and reading materials.

  • Stay close.
    Remember, a parent or legal guardian needs to be with the child throughout the day of surgery, so we ask that you not leave the hospital during your child's stay, even during surgery. It is important to stay close to or in the waiting area vicinity so we can find you when the surgery is over. If you need to step out of the area please give the secretary information on how to reach you.

After surgery expect:

  • An update.
    Your child will go to the pediatric same day post-operative care unit to allow anesthesia to wear off after surgery. We will reunite you with your child as soon as possible. The surgeon will talk to you and will update you about when your child can go home after the surgery. If he or she is staying overnight or longer, he will be moved to a regular hospital room or the intensive care unit. If your child has had surgery that does not require her to stay overnight, she will stay for a few hours following the procedure.
    Before going home, your child will need to be:

    • Fully awake with a normal heart rate, breathing rate, temperature and blood pressure
    • Able to drink some liquids without becoming nauseated
    • Comfortable enough
  • Your child to be monitored.
    Immediately after surgery, your child may look puffy or swollen. He may be receiving oxygen, have an intravenous line, and may be attached to a heart monitor. A nurse will check your child's heart rate, breathing, blood pressure and temperature as he wakes up after surgery. We will also provide pain relief for your child as needed. Be sure to ask your child's nurse any questions you may have about your child's recovery or any of the equipment.

  • To help your child.
    You can help your child in the recovery room by:

    • not waking him up if he or she is asleep
    • speaking softly and calmly
    • letting her know she is okay
    • focusing on your child and respecting the privacy of other patients
    • not using cellular phones and laptop computers in the recovery room

Going home expect to monitor your child’s:

  • Activity level.
    Your child may be unsteady for the first 24 hours, and you will need to watch him closely.

  • Eating.
    Your child may start eating and drinking slowly. First, try clear liquids such as water, ginger ale, apple juice and popsicles. If she does not vomit, try a light meal like soup or crackers. Do not force your child to eat, but encourage fluids.

  • Pain.
    Your child may have some pain, be cranky or run a slight fever. Acetaminophen, such as Tempra or Tylenol, may be enough to keep your child comfortable. If your child needs a stronger or different medication, his surgeon will prescribe it.

  • Behavior.
    Surgery is a difficult experience for everyone in the family, and your child may have trouble adjusting once he is at home. Your may notice your child temporarily behaving differently from normal with problems such as: sleep pattern changes, clingy behavior, changes in eating patterns, hyperactivity, or new fears, bed-wetting or thumb-sucking. This behavior is temporary and normal. Here are some ideas to help:

    • Assure your child that she is safe and well.
    • Read books about hospitals and doctors.
    • Play hospital.
    • Make a hospital scrapbook.
    • Distract your child with games, toys and music.

Patient Stories

  • “Her health problem was very stressful for us, but that’s all gone now — because she’s OK.”

    Read More
  • “The recovery was pretty challenging. But in my head, I was like, ‘I need to do this if I still want to play football in college.’ So I pushed through it, and in the end, it all came out amazing.”

    Read More
  • “I feel amazing. I can move. I can do so much more physical activity without feeling pain.”

    Read More

Patient Stories

  • Watch Testimonial
  • Watch Testimonial
  • Watch Testimonial