Helping parents prepare for your child’s surgery

What happens during surgery

Staying overnight

If your child is staying less than 24 hours, then your child probably will go to Short Stay Post-Op. Sometimes patients spend the night on a regular inpatient unit even if it is for less than 24 hours. A parent or guardian needs to be with the child/teen patient while they are in Short Stay (or at the hospital for less than 24 hours).

When you arrive your child’s nurse will talk with the PACU nurse about your child and show you around the area. The nurse will offer juice or a Popsicle when your child is ready. Each room has a TV, VCR, and phone and a recliner for a parent or guardian to sleep. The hospital has movies and you’re welcome to bring your own.

Visitors are welcome in Short Stay although there is not a lot of room for younger brothers and sisters to move around. They are welcome at the Sibling Play Area if they need more space.

Inpatient rooms

The rooms on the inpatient floors are either singles (for one patient) or doubles (for two patients). There’s a crib or adjustable bed for your child, a closet, and a bathroom. Shower and tub facilities also are available. Each bed space has a TV, VCR, or DVD player and a telephone with a direct number so family and friends can call directly into your room.

The rooms have a couch or foldout chair bed for a parent to sleep. For privacy there are window coverings for the windows and a curtain can be pulled around the bed area.

Visitors are welcome during the day and family members can come anytime. Friends are also welcome to visit but there might be some restriction on the visiting hours or the number of visitors at one time. Visitor should be healthy – no cough or cold, fever, rash, or other sickly symptoms. They should already have had chicken pox or the vaccination for it. Check with your child’s nurse if you have any questions about this.

Pediatric Intensive Care Unit

If your child is going to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, you may be moved there right after surgery. Your child will experience the same things as in the PACU and a nurse will be nearby throughout your stay.

There are two kinds of bed setups in the PICU. There are single rooms and an open “bay” area with several beds with privacy curtains around each one. Staff attempts to put older children in the single rooms, but sometimes older children or teens have a bed in the bay.

PICU rooms are similar to inpatient rooms. There’s a bed and some rooms have built in TV with a VCR or DVD player. You can always ask for these to be brought in. There are no bathrooms connected to the rooms. The nurses will explain the bathroom arrangements.

There are chairs by the bed for parents or visitors. Usually parents do not sleep in the room. There are sleeping rooms right outside the PICU. Parents also can check out pagers at the Welcome Center so your child’s nurse can contact you at anytime.

Monitors will keep track of your child’s heartbeat, blood pressure, and breathing. IV pumps will regulate the medicines and fluids your child will need. Other types of equipment may be used as well, depending on the type of surgery your child has had.

The nurse will be in the room with your child much of the time while you are in PICU.

Visitors are allowed in the PICU with two people visiting at one time (the room gets crowded with any more). Parents can be with their child as much as they wish. There are certain hours that siblings may visit and an adult must always accompany them. Other visitors must have parental permission to visit.

There is a lounge beside the PICU where families and visitors may gather to talk, watch TV, or grab a cup of coffee. There are lots of magazines and a telephone to make or receive outside calls.

When your child’s doctor decides that your child does not need such close observation and medical care, your child will go to one of the inpatient units.

Who your child will meet

Your child will meet lots of people while at Children’s. Here are some of them:

  • Nurse: Nurses are here around the clock. You’ll have a nurse assigned to your child each nursing shift. The nurse will talk to you about all kinds of things – medicines, when and what your child can eat, your child’s pain management and what you need to know to take care of your child. Nurses wear royal blue uniforms.
  • CSA: This stands for Clinical Support Associate. They help the nurses with some of the patient care. CSA’s wear navy blue.
  • Doctor: Your surgeon will check in on your child regularly. There also may be residents or other medical students who’ll have some part in your child’s care. The doctors write orders for medicines, meals, and activities. They have the final say about when your child is discharged.
  • Child Life staff: Child Life Specialists help your child learn about and understand the hospital experience. They help children find ways to deal with discomfort, talk about concerns or worries they might have, and are generally good listeners. Activities Associates help you find things to do while you’re here–watch movies, use a computer, play games, etc. Child Life staff wear regular street clothes.
  • Volunteers: They are teens and adults who visit patients and assist with play activities. They may rock babies, stay with your child while you take a break, or help in the playrooms. They wear red vests or jackets.

Out and about

Once your doctor and nurse say it’s okay for your child to be up and out of the room, you’ll be able to explore the unit with them and, perhaps, other parts of the hospital, too. Here’s some of what you may find:

  • Activity or playroom: There are lots of activities, games, and toys in these rooms. There are things for teens, too – video games, board games, art, and craft materials.
  • Nurse’s desk: This can be a busy place. Think of it as the central information station for the unit.
  • Library: This children’s library has books, magazines, and computers for children and teens to enjoy here or back in the patient room. There is a library cart that periodically comes around to some patient units as well.
  • Family Lounge: Your family or visitors can head to the lounge to relax. If you bring food from home, you can store it in the refrigerator and heat it up in the microwave.
  • Sibling Play Area: Brothers, sisters, cousins, or other kids who get tired of visiting can be signed into Sibling Play. It’s a great place for kids to play and run off energy during their visits, yet not feel left out of what’s going on in your family.
  • Family Resource Center: Provides a quiet comfortable environment where patient families can find health information and community resources, and get Internet and e-mail access.
  • Welcome Center: Located near hospital main entrances, the staff here provides information, directions and patient locations for patient families and visitors. They also have pagers that may be checked out to a patient family.


Take a tour designed to help patients and family members to learn what to expect before, during, and after surgery day.


To make the check-in process as easy as possible, we encourage patients who have an appointment for Surgery, Radiology (X-Ray) or Special Diagnostics to pre-register online.


At Children’s Minnesota, we know how important reliable information about conditions and illnesses is.