Before Your Child’s Surgery

Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital offers pre-surgical preparation classes with our child life specialists that include a tour of our surgery center, and a pre-anesthesia consultation to those who need one. As a family-centered care center, we welcome caregivers as equal members of our team. You are invited to ask questions and voice concerns regarding your child’s surgery. Prior to the procedure, you will be contacted to schedule any necessary visits as well as to provide any pertinent insurance and contact information. One business day prior to your child’s procedure you will receive an automated phone call reminding you of your scheduled surgery time. To help you plan for your child’s surgery, the below information provides information about what to expect before, during and after your visit. Please be sure to check our current visitor policy prior to your visit.

Before Surgery

Talking to your child about what to expect

It can sometimes seem difficult to tell your child they will have surgery. It is normal for your child to have questions and concerns. Here are tips for talking to your child about their surgery.

  • Let your children know what to expect
    Help your child understand what will happen on the day of surgery. If you are unsure about any part, be honest and reassure your child you will help them find the answers.
  • Be open and honest
    Children need simple, honest answers and age appropriate information. Use simple language. For younger children discuss the part of their body that the doctor will help. For example “We are going to the hospital so the doctor can help your ears.” For older children “We are going to give you sleepy medicine so the doctors can help your ears.”
  • Talk about how this will help your child
    Talk about exact reasons for their surgery or procedure they can understand: “Your belly has been hurting lately. The doctor is going to take special pictures of your belly when you are sleeping so we can help your belly feel better.”
  • Use familiar, age appropriate words
    Words used by the medical staff can be confusing for children. Try to use familiar words when you talk to your child about their surgery such as “sleep medicine” instead of “anesthesia”. Avoid using phrases such as “put to sleep” which may create anxiety after experiences with pets being “put to sleep”.
  • Validate your child’s feelings and fears
    Address your child’s feelings and let them know it is okay to feel scared or nervous. Use open-ended questions to encourage your child to express how they are feeling: “I see that you are feeling nervous and that is okay. Is there any part of having surgery that you are feeling worried about?”
  • Give your child a role
    Surgery can cause children to feel a lack of control. Give your child a job, such as: choosing what comfort item to bring with them, packing a bag with activities to bring from home or making a list of questions for the doctors and medical team.
  • Involve the whole family
    When talking to your child about their surgery, include siblings in the conversation in an age appropriate way. If your child will be staying overnight at the hospital, make plans for your children to FaceTime or have the sibling at home make a card for your child to open at the hospital. These can help make your child at home feel involved and help keep the siblings connected.

If your child is feeling anxious about their surgery or procedure, schedule a pre-anesthesia visit or Child Life Pre-Surgery class. A Certified Child Life Specialist can help provide individualized preparation and support for you, your child, and their siblings.

Learn more about Child Life at Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital

Take a pre-surgery tour

The Child Life Pre-Surgical Preparation class is a free, fun, informative class for parents and their children ages 5-10 years, who are having surgery at Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital. A certified child life specialist helps children and families understand what to expect before, during and after surgery through medical play, educational games and a tour of the operating and recovery rooms.

Please call 203-688-5573 to inquire. You can also learn more by viewing our video tour

Scheduling and What to Expect for Pre-Anesthesia Visit

Scheduling a pre-anesthesia visit

If your child requires a pre-anesthesia visit, someone from our office will contact you to schedule a visit within 30 days of your child's procedure. Pre-anesthesia visits are held Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, 9 am - 5 pm. Your child's appointment will take approximately one hour. Please bring any of your child's prescription medications with you. If you are not scheduled for this visit and you feel your child would benefit from attending, you may schedule one by calling 203-688-5576.

What to expect during your pre-anesthesia visit

  • When you enter the Children's Hospital (West Pavilion) at 1 Park Street, please take the West Pavilion elevators to the Children's Surgery Center which is located on the third floor of the Children's Hospital.
  • You will speak with a pediatric nurse practitioner, who will perform a preoperative assessment. This includes asking about your child's medical history, medications and allergies. Your child's blood pressure and heart rate will also be checked and this information will be shared with the anesthesia team assigned to your child's surgery.
  • Your child will also see a child life specialist.

Day of Your Child’s Surgery

What to Bring:

  • Guardianship papers
  • Medications list
  • Favorite toy or comfort item
  • Special bottle or cup

Check in and Registration

  • Upon your arrival at the Children’s Hospital entrance at 1 Park St., please enter the lobby and a hospital representative will direct you to the admitting desk on the first floor.
  • An admitting receptionist will check your child in, verify your child’s name and birthdate, and issue your child an ID bracelet.
  • You will be directed to the Children’s Surgery Center on the third floor. Inside the marked glass doors, a receptionist will check-in your child and seat you in the pre-operative waiting area and call your name when it’s time to go into one of our pre-operative rooms.

Pre-operative Rooms at the Children’s Surgery Center

When your child arrives in the pre-op unit, it will be a busy time meeting the team members who will help you and your child have a safe and comfortable experience. Your child will change into hospital pajamas, have vital signs taken and a nurse will review medical history. A member of the pre-op team may order pre-op medicine for your child during this time.

Your pre-op team will include:

  • Pre-op nurse
  • Operating room nurse
  • Anesthesiologist/nurse anesthetist
  • Surgeon
  • Child life specialist

Operating Room

When the operating room is ready, your child will go to the operating room with the anesthesia team and a child life specialist. The anesthesia team will give your child special medicine through a clear mask or IV so they sleep during the procedure. While under anesthesia, the team will closely monitor your child.

Waiting Room for Parents

While your child is in surgery, you will wait in our waiting area. A television monitor will show when the procedure is complete. We invite you to bring something to read to pass the time and the cafeteria is open for snacks and meals. If you have any questions or concerns in the waiting area, please see the attendant at the reception desk.

When your child’s procedure is over, the surgeon will meet with you to discuss the details of the surgery and to review how to care for your child once you leave the hospital.

Recovery Room

Our team will bring your child to the post-anesthesia care unit, which is also known as the recovery room. The television monitor tracking screen in the waiting room will show when your child moves to the recovery area. Our recovery room staff will invite you to be with your child as soon as possible.

Once in recovery, it takes about 30-60 minutes for your child to wake up. This varies by child and type of surgery.

Your child will be closely monitored by a recovery room nurse. There may be tubes or machines that beep and monitor your child and medicine is available to help keep your child comfortable.

Caring for your Child at Home

You will receive written instructions by your recovery room nurse highlighting important instructions about caring for your child when you go home.

Important tips for the first couple of days

  • Plan some quiet play and games
  • Limit activity
  • Be aware of possible behavior changes

If your child has had general anesthesia, he/she may need extra help doing basic daily tasks.

If you have any questions or concerns, please call the phone number provided to you on your discharge papers to talk with your surgical care team.

Surgical Services Virtual Tour

Overnight Hospital Stays

Your Child’s Overnight Stay at the Hospital

Your Child's Hospital Room

We try to have each child in a single room, but occasionally we need to place a child in a room with another child. Please talk to your child's nurse if you would like our help in making your child's stay in a double room more comfortable. Most patient rooms include a bed or crib, a cot or couch for a parent to sleep on, a bathroom and shower that parents can use, a television with a DVD player, a bedside table and a telephone. Let us know if your child prefers a bed or a crib; however, cribs are sometimes recommended for younger children for safety.

Overnight Hospital Stays

In keeping with our patient- and family-centered care approach, parents and guardians are welcome 24 hours a day. Generally, one parent or legal guardian is welcome to stay overnight. There is a family room on most units with a microwave, coffeemaker, table and chairs.

Your Meals

YNHCH offers a "room service" meal program designed specifically for parents or family members who wish to dine with their child during meal time. Our menus are designed to appeal to children and teens alike, with a wide range of choices.

Room serving dining costs $5 (one meal card) for breakfast and $10 (two meal cards) for lunch or dinner. Please ask a member of our unit staff to provide you with a brochure if your admission packet did not include this guest room service information.

Discharge and Going Home

We try to discharge patients before 11 am, although there are sometimes unavoidable delays. We make every attempt to let you know the day before discharge, so you can arrange transportation. Your physician or nurse will inform you of your child's discharge time. Please be patient with the discharge process. The staff wants to ensure that all care is completed before your child is discharged. If your child requires home care or has special care needs after his or her stay at the hospital, the care coordinator will help you set up appropriate services.

Discharge Instructions

Your child's doctor and nurse will give you instructions about post-hospital care. If you have questions about your child's diet, medication, activities or other matters, please be sure to ask. If you have questions after you get home, you can call the nursing station on your unit and speak with a staff member.

  • Please check your room and surrounding area carefully for all of your child's belongings. Double-check closets and drawers.
  • Children cannot be discharged without an appropriate car seat.

Follow-up phone calls after discharge

You may receive a follow-up phone call a few days after discharge to see how your child is doing. If you are clear about your discharge instructions, and if you have any suggestions about what could have done better while your child was in the hospital. If you do not receive a call and have questions or suggestions, you may contact patient relations directly during business hours.

Going Home

Returning home can be an adjustment. Your child may be eager to get back to the usual routine, but a little uncertain of how to proceed. Some simple steps may help make the adjustment to home as easy as possible.

  • Return the child to his or her regular home routine and give your child responsibilities that match his or her abilities.
  • Give him or her some choices over what to eat or do.
  • Permit the child to express anger, frustration or sadness and offer reassurance and support.
  • Avoid leaving your child for long periods of time or overnight until he or she has settled in again.


In most cases, your physician will prescribe one or more medications for your child to take or use at home. You should fill these prescriptions promptly after leaving the hospital and follow your physician's instructions closely.

Prescription Assistance Program

After discharge, some patients are eligible for prescription discounts -- regardless of health insurance or pharmacy benefits.

Learn more about Prescription Assistance


We also offer pediatric surgical services at Shoreline Surgery Center, Park Avenue Medical Center and Greenwich Hospital.