What to Expect on the Day of Your Child’s Surgery


Your surgeon’s office will let you know what time to arrive on the day of surgery. Check in at the Clough Surgical Center reception desk located on the first floor of the hospital. Once registered, you will be assigned a case number in order to follow your child’s progress on the patient tracking board located on the wall in the waiting area.


  • A child life specialist or nurse will greet you in the waiting area and escort you into a room which will be decorated in a child-friendly, welcoming manner.
  • Your child will be asked to change into hospital pajamas and socks.
  • The pre-operative (pre-op) nurse will measure your child’s height, weight and vital signs and ask questions about his/her health history.
  • An anesthesiologist will meet with you, examine your child, and discuss your child’s plan for anesthesia.
  • Using developmentally appropriate language, the child life specialist will prepare you and your child for anesthesia induction and the surgical experience.
  • The surgeon will visit to review the procedure, answer any questions and “mark” the correct surgical site.
  • At the discretion of the anesthesia team, one parent may accompany their child (birth to age 12) to the operating room (OR) and stay until anesthesia takes effect. You will be asked to put on a paper jumpsuit, shoe covers, hat and mask to go in. Please note: for safety reasons, women who are pregnant may not be present for inhalation anesthesia inductions.


  • You will know it is time to go to surgery when the nurse anesthetist (CRNA) and OR nurse come to meet you and receive report from the pre-op nurse.
  • Your child will travel to the OR on his/her bed. You may ride with your child or walk alongside. The child life specialist, CRNA and OR nurse will accompany you both.
  • Once in the room, staff will assist your child from the stretcher to the OR bed. You will be asked to sit next to your child on a stool provided.
  • After all safety monitors are in place, the anesthesia team will begin giving your child the anesthesia medications. Your calm presence and reassuring words are most helpful during this time.
  • Once your child is asleep, the child life specialist will guide you back to the pre-op area. Please wait in the family waiting area. Your child’s surgeon will meet with you in the waiting area or speak to you by phone once the surgery is over.


  • The anesthesia/OR team will bring your child to the recovery room where he/she will be closely monitored by a PACU nurse.
  • Once the PACU nurse determines that your child is ready for your reunion, a staff member will accompany you to the PACU to be with your child.
  • It is not uncommon for children to wake up confused, disoriented, and emotionally upset. Your calming presence will help.
  • Your child will be offered something light to eat or drink when deemed safe to do so. A favorite light snack or familiar bottle or sippy cup from home is welcome. The hospital provides crackers, juice and popsicles.


  • Your child will be discharged either from the PACU or post-op unit.
  • Your child will need to leave the hospital via wheelchair or stroller to be safe.
  • The nurse will provide you with verbal and written discharge instructions.
  • It is important that a responsible adult be with your child at all times throughout the remainder of the day. Plan for a restful day at home.
  • You can help your child process his/her experience through play acting, drawing or journaling. Creating his/her own “Hospital Story” can be helpful.


  1. Relaxation: Try deep and steady breathing. Have your child inhale (like smelling flowers) and exhale (like blowing out candles), dim the lights, or play soft music.
  2. Distraction: Blow bubbles, read or write stories, watch movies, or play video games.
  3. Touch: Stroke your child’s hair, rock your child, gently rub your child’s back.
  4. Visualization: Help your child focus their thoughts and senses on an image of a favorite place. Have them close their eyes and imagine what it feels like to be there. Ask what they like about the place, how it smells, what they see/hear.

Note: Children may display some behavioral changes after having surgery. Changes may include trouble sleeping, fearfulness, irritability or clinginess, thumb sucking or bed wetting. If these behaviors persist after a few weeks, consult your pediatrician.