Countdown to Surgery: Checklists for Parents

Closet with doctor's coats

Below are some helpful tips to prepare for your child’s surgery. Children’s National Health System recommends reviewing this checklist as soon as your child’s surgery is scheduled.

Preparing for your child's surgery: one month before surgery

  • Have I scheduled a physical exam with my child’s primary care physician within 30 days before the operation?
  • Has my primary care physician completed and signed the medical history and physical examination form?
  • Have I notified Language Services if my child, family, or I have special communication needs, such as hearing impairment, visual difficulties, foreign language translation or other need?
      Language Services: (202) 476-5444
  • Have I received authorization from my insurance company for the operation, if required by my insurance contract?
  • Have I reviewed the Pre-Surgical Tour online? Have I considered bringing my child to Children’s Hospital on a Sunday afternoon for the pre-surgical tour?
      For more information, call (202) 476-3812
  • Have I discussed my child’s medical history with the surgeon?
    • The reason for the surgery
    • Medications my child is taking
    • Allergies to medicine, food, or latex
    • Reactions to anesthesia or to a blood transfusion
    • History of nausea after anesthesia or medication
    • Immunization record
    • Previous illnesses or operations
    • Previous hospital stays (admissions), tests, or treatments
    • Anything that might put my child at risk during the hospital visit
  • Have I asked my surgeon about any special equipment I may need at home after surgery?
  • Have I arranged for someone to care for my other children while I am at the hospital?
  • For families coming from out of town: have I called Concierge Services at (202) 476-6160 for help making travel and lodging plans?

One week before surgery

  • You will receive a call three days prior to surgery from the Pre-Operative Care Clinic to discuss your child’s health, your concerns, and to answer any questions you might have. It is important that we know your child’s health history to help identify potential risks before your child’s anesthesia and surgery.
  • Two business days before surgery a surgical preparation nurse will call you before surgery between the hours of noon and 9:30 pm to finalize the time of your child’s surgery and the time you need to arrive to surgery registration (2nd floor). If you do not receive this phone call by 6 pm, or are away from your phone, please call (202) 476-3370 by 10 am the business day prior to surgery.

One day before surgery

  • Does my child have a cold, a fever, a rash, or fever blister?
  • If so, please call the surgeon immediately. The operation may be postponed.
  • Have I talked with my child about the operation?
  • Have I reviewed the information about anesthesia and the instructions about eating and drinking?
  • Has my child taken a thorough bath or shower and removed all make-up, nail polish, piercings, and other jewelry?
  • For post-surgical care at home: do I have plenty of clear liquids, such as water, sugar water, Gatorade, Jell-O, apple juice, pulp-free juices, breast milk, Pedialyte, Popsicles?
  • Do I have a supply of acetaminophen at home?
  • Have I planned quiet games and activities for my child for after the operation?
  • Have I made arrangements for transportation to and from Children’s National? Do I have directions?
  • Have I made arrangements to be with my child or have another adult present while my child recuperates at home?
  • Have I arranged for someone to care for my other children while I am at the hospital?
  • If I need to cancel my child’s surgery, have I contacted the surgical coordinator?
  • Do I have all of our insurance information ready to bring with me to the hospital?
  • I was called by Children’s National and was unavailable, did I return the call?
  • Review eating and drinking guidelines

What to bring on the day of surgery

Please make sure you bring the following information to check in and register:

  • Picture identification card (for parents and patients over 18)
  • Insurance card for the patient
  • Statement of non-availability, if covered by TriCare
  • Referral/authorization, if covered by an HMO
  • Proof of guardianship (foster parent papers, court orders) if you are not the parents of the patient.
  • Your child’s Social Security number
  • The “Consent to Surgery” form that your child’s surgeon gave you
  • The original medical history and physical (H&P) exam form completed by your primary care physician
  • Any outside x-ray or other imaging films and/or lab results
  • If you have questions about your child's anesthesia, the anesthesiologist will meet you on the day of surgery to discuss the best option for your child

Other items to bring for the comfort of you and your child:

  • Comfortable clothing and a change of clothes
  • Your child’s medications; parent/caregiver medications
  • Containers for glasses, contact lenses, or any assistive devices such as hearing aids
  • Your child’s favorite toy, blanket, or comfort item
  • Special bottle, nipple, pacifier, or sipper cup
  • Something to occupy your time while you’re waiting, such as magazines, knitting, or your laptop computer. A free wireless network is available to our guests.

What not to bring on the day of surgery

  • Nail polish; ensure nail polish is removed prior to surgery
  • Valuables, such as jewelry
  • Food or drink into the Surgery Preparation, Surgery Registration, and family Waiting Room
  • Siblings and other relatives or friends

Due to space constraints, we must limit the number of people coming to the hospital to only parents/guardians and patients. If your child will be staying at the hospital after the surgical procedure, the surgical team will advise you when other guests are permitted.