1. Throwing nappies away is less helpful than you might think!
Please do change your child's nappy while they're in hospital but please don't throw the dirty nappies away!
We might have to keep a fluid balance, which means measuring all fluid going in to and coming out of your child. We weigh nappies to measure urine output and one lost nappy really messes up our numbers (and makes our charts look messy!)
Also nothing pleases us more than looking at and smelling poo. A quick sniff of a dodgy looking nappy can usually tell you if it's "antibiotics causing loose stools" or "quick isolate this infectious patient stat". And without seeing the poo, how could we grade it on the Bristol Stool Chart?!
2. The patient call bell is NOT for waitress service.
Each bed has a 'nurse call' button, much like on an aeroplane. If you press it, a light comes on and a loud buzzer goes off. This is very useful, if for example, your child is vomiting everywhere and you need help, or you're stuck under your sleeping child and are worried about their breathing.
However, the buzzer is annoying and unspecific. We have 12 other buzzing or beeping noises to deal with and no idea how urgent your call is. It's kind of irritating to stop doing something to answer a call bell of a parent who just wants to know what time the canteen opens.
If you can come and find someone, come and find someone.
3. The food is generally crap.It will really improve your stay, and your child's recovery if you bring in food and drinks they like from home. There is usually a fridge for patient's own food. Eating well makes you feel better and a poorly child is more likely to try their favourite dinner than a dry hospital shepherd's pie!
image from metro.co.uk
4. Every nurse you speak to probably has a list in their pocket of 25 tasks to complete in the next hour.We have thousands of tasks to complete each shift, that constantly change. If you asked for a spare pillow case 3 hours ago, your nurse might have forgotten or she might have just prioritised a lot of other tasks. It's totally ok to ask again... but if you asked 3 MINUTES ago...maybe wait.
Speaking of waiting...
5. There are (probably) sicker children than yours.Life in hospital is a game of priorities. The sickest child is the highest priority. This is extremely hard to deal with as a parent. (I know, I've been the parent screaming at a nurse to get hold of a doctor at 3am). Try not to lose your cool (like I did). It's your job to advocate for your child, but unfortunately, throwing a hissy-fit isn't going to change the order in which staff will get to you.
If you're waiting a long time for someone or something, you're the lucky ones.
6. We can't tell you about the other patients.It's sweet that you're concerned about other patients on the ward but we can't discuss why they're there, or what is happening with them. Even if you tell us you're friends. Sorry.
7. The doorbell rule.Man alive I wish everyone knew this!
You have to ring a bell to get into a children's ward. When someone answers you say "I'm visiting Joe Blogs" or "I'm Joe Blogs' Mum".
You do NOT say "Hi, can I come in?" "I'm back" or "Can you let me in?" or "I want to get through the door" or "I'm here to visit the children's ward" or my personal favourite "I'm here to see my child". You need to know the name of the child you are visiting... That's basically your password! Even if there is a camera on the door, the person letting you in might never have met you or seen you before. If people could follow this simple instruction, it would save the NHS millions* in wasted nurse time! (*slight exaggeration possible).
8. Stuff takes time.Sorry. Another one about waiting. Some things take a long time. It's infuriating for everyone. But we can't pop down to the pharmacy and stand next to the pharmacist asking them to be quicker. We can't nip into the lab and stand there tapping our watches at the technicians. We can't knock on the door of the theatre and nag the surgeon to finish operating on the child before yours.
Waiting for things in hospital is maddening and makes your blood boil as a parent. Please don't boil it at us. I assure you, everything that can be done is most likely being done. I'm always happy to be badgered, nudged, reminded or questioned but it does make me feel sad when I get the brunt of a parent's impatience. Try to be nice, I know it's hard.
9. If we're stood staring at your child and not talking, just wait a minute...If we're stood at the end of the child's bed, holding our watches, staring at your child's chest, we're counting their breaths per minute. We have to do this every time we do observations. Yes it's a bit socially unusual to stop chatting and do some staring and counting, but please do not fill the silence with a complex story or list of questions.
10. We're sorry.We're sorry the drip machine beeps every 5 minutes. And that the bed is uncomfortable. And that the baby opposite you cries all the time. And most of all that your child is poorly. We'd love to sit with you and give you a hug and make you a cup of tea.
We're sorry we're too busy to do that.