Summer 2006

A Place to Prepare for Surgery

Pediatric Prepare is a new program created for children and their families at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital to make the preparation for surgery and anesthesia as painless and anxiety-free as possible.

The program, which used to be part of a similar adult service, has recently inaugurated a dedicated, child-friendly space to make children feel more at ease during one of the most difficult times in their lives.

"It's a whole new environment for kids and their parents," says Atsuko Baba, M.D., medical director of the Prepare Program. "The idea is to make the whole perioperative period easier."

The program encourages children and their families to come in before the surgery, so that they can be in a safe, non-threatening environment while learning about what will happen during their hospitalization. "For younger kids, we use medical toys and dolls to explain what they can expect on the day of surgery, and to let children explore items that are unfamiliar, such as the anesthesia mask," says certified child life specialist Teresa McDonald. "We even encourage them take a mask home to practice putting it on, if they want."

Children aren't the only ones who feel acute anxiety before surgery, Baba says. Parents are often as anxious as children are, and sometimes more so, about the procedure. Parents feel better not only learning more about the sequence of events surrounding surgery, but also seeing their child's anxiety alleviated.

In the Prepare Program, a nurse practitioner does a complete perioperative physical workup of the patient, and administrators are able to get any needed medical or insurance information. "When the day of surgery arrives, we have taken care of all the bureaucratic stuff, so that kids can just hang out," Baba says.

The Prepare Program is good for the hospital, as well as the kids. "It makes everything more efficient to get these things done well before surgery," says pediatric nurse practitioner Amanda Sligar. "We don't want to have kids coming in sick so that the surgery has to be canceled at the last minute. We can spot that ahead of time."

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