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What to expect when your child is having surgery

A step by step guide

by Carmin Erickson, Director of Surgery, CHI St. Alexius Health, Dickinson

Undergoing surgery, even for a minor procedure, can feel like an overwhelming event. When your own child is the one needing surgery, as the parent you feel the extra responsibility of helping your little one get through the procedure as smoothly as possible.

Your hospital’s surgery team understands these common worries and is ready to assist you every step of the way.

If your child is scheduled for surgery, our caring team of surgeons, nurse anesthetists, nurses and surgical technicians will help you and your child understand what to expect and explain the processes that you will encounter during the surgical experience.

Before Surgery:

A nurse will call you before your child’s surgery. During the call, the nurse will tell you what time to arrive, which entrance to come to and what you need to bring. The nurse will let you know what time your child can no longer eat or drink anything before the procedure. The nurse will also do an assessment over the phone, which will include questions regarding health history, immunizations, medications and other general health questions.

The Day of Surgery:

Remember, it is very important that your child’s stomach is empty prior to surgery. Follow the instructions that were given to you during the preoperative phone call discussion. If your child did eat or drink past the stated time, the surgery may have to be cancelled and rescheduled.

Also important to note: if your child has become ill, please inform the physician prior to the day of surgery.

A parent or legal guardian will be asked to sign a variety of forms the day of surgery. The nurse will be happy to answer any last minute questions that you may have at this time.


Please arrive on time at the specified entrance. You will be asked to write your child’s name, date of birth and reason for visit on a piece of paper. An admissions specialist will then verify information regarding employment, insurance, name, date of birth, address, and other identifying information at this time. You will then go to the waiting area where the preoperative nurse will come to bring you to the day surgery area.

You are welcome to bring a toy or favorite blanket for your child. Your child will change into a hospital gown. The nurse will then conduct an assessment, which will include checking your child’s weight, blood pressure and temperature. Your surgeon will come and speak with you during this time. Anesthesia personnel will also speak with you regarding the anesthesia plan during the procedure.

Going into the Operation:

We encourage one of the parents to accompany us along with your child into the OR. Your child may also bring a comfort item (toy or blanket). Once your child has gone off to sleep, a staff member will escort you out to the waiting room or back to the preoperative room in day surgery.

Following Surgery:

After the procedure is complete, the surgeon will meet with you to discuss the outcome of the surgery. Soon after this, your child will be taken to the recovery room. Once there, a parent may come into the recovery room so that you may comfort your child as they are waking up. Your child may remain in recovery for approximately 30-60 minutes.

Going Home:

Your child, depending on the type of surgery, may go home once they have recovered sufficiently from anesthesia and can drink some liquids. You will be given discharge instructions that will go over medications, diet, activities and also date and time of the follow up appointment.