Illness & disability
Going to the hospital
Sometimes a hospital stay can feel like forever. Remember that you’re going home as soon as treatment helps. Try to relax and focus on getting better.
Being in the hospital can be scary — even for adults. Not only are you in a strange place, but you may have to deal with new medical tests and treatments. Asking questions, trusting the people around you, and finding ways to relax can help.
Also, remember that the staff is there to help you get better. They are on your team! Keep reading for help in these areas:
- Being around new people
- Being away from friends and family
- Being bored and feeling like you are missing out
- Keeping up with schoolwork
- Feeling pain
- Leaving the hospital
Being around new people top
In the hospital, you'll meet many new health care staff, including doctors, nurses, and technicians. Technicians are the people who take X-rays, draw blood samples, and perform other tests. You may see your regular doctor, but you also might meet new doctors, including specialists who focus on one area, like your lungs. You might work with a child life specialist, whose job it is to help you deal with life in the hospital. If someone works with you and you’re not sure what they do, feel free to ask!
Hospital staff may come in and out of your room at all hours. You might not feel like you have any privacy. They are there to help you get better, though. If you have any questions for them, don't be afraid to ask. The more you know about what's going on, the more comfortable you'll feel about being in the hospital.
In your hospital room, you will probably have a roommate. Your roommate may have the same health problem as you or one that's different. It can help to have a roommate to talk to. But if you want some privacy, there will be a curtain between your beds that you can close.
It may sound funny, but a hospital can be a good place to meet people. If you have to be there for a while, try finding some other patients your own age to talk to.
Being away from friends and family top
Being away from friends and family can make you feel sad or lonely. But hospitals have visiting hours so that you can have guests. Here are some tips to help you deal with being away from home:
- Have family spend the night. In some hospitals, parents can visit whenever they want, and other family members usually are allowed to visit longer. You may also be able to have a parent stay overnight.
- Use the phone to keep in touch. You will likely have a phone in your room, so you can keep in touch with people that way. Calls using your room phone may be added to your hospital bill, so check with your parents first. Be sure to ask the nurses if it’s okay to use a cell phone in the hospital. Some hospitals do not allow cell phone use inside.
- Invite your friends over. Once the doctor says it’s okay for you to have visitors other than your family, friends can come by to keep you company. Ask your friends to bring games and pictures to get your mind off your hospital stay. Having too many people in your room can be tiring, so make sure to say something if you need rest.
- Ask if you can bring some stuff from home. Having things you love or that remind you of home can brighten up your room and your stay.
Being bored and feeling like you are missing out top
Being stuck in a hospital when your friends are enjoying school and being outside just plain stinks. Worrying that you’re missing out on all the fun at school and in your neighborhood is a common feeling. Worrying that you won’t be remembered is also common. But they will remember you. You won’t dwell on missing out if you stay busy until you get well.
- Bring some things to the hospital to keep you busy, such as books, games, or an MP3 player.
- Write in a journal.
- Visit the activity rooms or lounges. They often have movies, games, magazines, and arts and crafts projects.
- Make friends with other patients your age.
Keeping up with schoolwork top
Missing school might not seem so bad at first. But then you might worry about how much work you have to make up after your hospital stay. If you feel up to it, try to do some of your work in the hospital. But don’t worry if you can’t get to it. Focus on feeling better first!
If you’re worried about falling behind, you can look into:
- Tutors. Some hospitals have tutors to help young patients keep up with their classes while they are in the hospital.
- Homebound programs. If you have to spend a long time at home getting better after a hospital visit, your school might have a teacher who can come help you with your schoolwork.
Feeling pain top
No one likes to feel pain — even adults. But your doctor will talk to you about what your tests and treatments will be like. It’s okay to ask if treatment will hurt. Knowing what to expect doesn’t stop the pain from happening. But it can make it less scary. Also, the doctors and nurses will do what they can to make you comfortable.
Pain and surgery. If you are scared about surgery, remember that it will not hurt you while it is happening. You will either be asleep or parts of your body will be numb so that you can’t feel a thing. When it is over, your health care team will help you to feel better as fast as possible.
Leaving the hospital top
It might sound strange, but it’s normal to have mixed feelings about leaving the hospital. You might miss the health care team that took care of you, or worry about taking care of yourself from now on. These feelings may take some time to pass. But being back with your family and friends will help you feel better.
If you are a little nervous about going back to school after being in the hospital, talk with other teens who have gone through the same thing. They might be able to give you some tips that will make going back to school easier.
Knowing what to expect can make a hospital stay less scary.
Learn more about what happens in a hospital, from admissions to X-rays. And check out the links below to learn from other kids how you can make a hospital stay easier to handle — and maybe even fun.
- Band-Aids and Blackboards is a website for kids and teens about growing up with a medical problem.
- The Starlight Foundation has stories and an online program to help teens talk with others who are going through the same thing you are .
Content last updated February 16, 2011