Unlike adults, children tend to be more fidgety and apprehensive about hospitals, which is a natural behavior. But it can become problematic for healthcare providers when a child is too scared and doesn’t cooperate. Nurses cannot use the techniques doctors use on adults on children, such as talking and explaining to them. Instead, other measures need to be set in place to help children adjust to the clinical environment.
Nurses play a pivotal role in helping kids feel safe and comfortable in the hospital/clinic. After all, they are the first face most kids see after going to the hospital. Whether the child is a baby or a toddler, a sense of humor and a friendly tone go a long way. So if you’re a nurse about to head out and start a clinical shift with children, here are some tips you can follow to make sure you can care for these kids:
1. Study more
As a nurse, it is easy to overlook the consideration that the knowledge and experience you’re gaining while treating adults does not apply to children. However, you can remedy that by continuing your education via flexible learning options on the internet. You can quickly go for courses such as CCNE accredited online MSN programs while specializing in pediatrics. This will help you hone your nursing skills and tap into a child’s psychology to make better connections and provide proper care. You must pick up on how a child behaves and thinks so you know how to handle them. It will also help you calm a child if they’re having a meltdown in the middle of their session.
2. Have a child-friendly space
Hospitals don’t have a welcoming environment. The walls are primarily white, and there are no colorful pictures to entice kids. All of these can put off children and make them hesitant to getting care. The healthcare system can make an effort to help children feel less anxious about their visits. Administrators can opt to paint the kids’ wards with cheerful colors and add appropriate visuals on the walls. As a nurse, you can even add children-friendly chairs that are soft and comfortable. Your desk can also have miniature figurines that are not small enough to choke but large enough to hold the child’s attention. As you run through with the parent what they’re in for, you may keep a child-friendly space with toys and stuffed animals that hold their attention. You can use one of these toys while giving them a physical to ensure they’re distracted. This way, it will be easier for you to administer treatment.
3. Communicate on their level
Don’t be stoic when you meet a child, instead learn to talk to them on their level. When a child comes in, introduce yourself and let them introduce themselves to you. It would help if you also got down to their level by either crouching down or letting them sit at the examination table. It would help if you are friendly and, when talking to them, indulge them often, so they don’t feel uncomfortable around you. You can even ask them to hold an instrument since kids like feeling needed. Maybe you could ask the child to hold an alcohol swab as you’re conducting a physical exam.
In some cases, you can even ask the child to sit on their parent’s lap or hold their hand for additional comfort. You should also listen to a child if they tell you where they feel pain. You should also let them know if a treatment such as giving them a shot hurts but reassure them that you are here. No one likes patronization, and children are no different. Don’t try to use a sing-song voice or over pronounce words for their amusement. Just ensure you’re polite when you talk to them.
4. Acknowledge when a child is brave
For children, acknowledgment means everything. A checkup is an intimidating and scary process for them, so letting them know they’re brave will encourage them to come back for a follow-up. It would help if you used positive reinforcement, such as telling them you know that the procedure is painful, but you know they’re courageous. You can even give them a high five or tell them they did well.
5. Don’t just touch them
A child needs to give consent too. Their consent matters the most. If you need to lift their shirt or slightly pull down their pants, let them know. If the child is wearing a patient gown, you may want to tell them where you’re going to touch and lightly demonstrate that you have no intentions of hurting them. If you need them to squint their eyes or stick out their tongue once again, show them what you want them to do. Before you start your exam, it is also helpful to ask them if they would like their parents to be present.
Once you have concluded your exam, help them readjust their attire and let them know they are free to go. Early consent also teaches the child that they get the right to say “no,” and you will pull back if they don’t want you touching them. This not only gives them more liberty to make their decisions, but they will also decide when to let you near them. The same applies to when a child seeks comfort from you. Just ensure you’re not too invasive,
6. Don’t get hasty
Some children are naturally fussy, and that is fine. As a nurse, you can’t get mean or hasty with them. The examination may take longer, but a child’s comfort and safety are essential. If a child is moving around when you’re trying to administer care, they may injure themselves. So you can either ask a parent to lend you a hand by consoling the child or find out the source of the child’s stress and try to ease it for them.
Maybe the child is uncomfortable. Reassure them that you’re trying to help them elevate their disease and show them instruments that would give them validation that you’re indeed trying to help. Suppose they are still reluctant. Try demonstrating to the parent what you want to do without using any medicines. Suppose you want to do a reflex test. You may wish to light test the parent’s reflexes so the child knows what to expect.
7. Have a sense of humor
If you get older kids, toys and colorful images probably won’t work for them. In that case, try having a sense of humor. Most kids know about pop culture or like generic children’s jokes. You can easily slide them into the conversation to make them laugh. This not only makes the child more comfortable around you, but some children are also naturally shy and need slight encouragement to come out of their comfort zone. Once you have their trust, it will be easier to administer care and even ask the child to guide you where it hurts. This is much better than following the procedure right away without letting the child get comfortable around you.
As a healthcare provider, you may see several patients in a day. Some of these patients may be children. Children require more care and comfort while you handle them. They spook easily and may not be forthcoming about getting their checkup. In such cases, it is your job to make them feel comfortable. You can make your office more child-friendly by including more toys and colorful walls. Take the time to get to know your patient. You want them to feel comfortable and easy to talk to instead of scaring them further. It will help if you ask their parents to step in from time to time. The key to looking after children is to be as patient as possible. As long as you’re friendly, communicative, and approachable, you should have no trouble treating a child.
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