The Child Life Program: What to Expect on Surgery Day

July 20, 2018

At Humber River Hospital, our world-renowned Child Life Program is a start-to-finish program that makes sure kids feel comfortable and safe on surgery day – and that their parents feel informed and empowered.


Surgery Registration

When you arrive on the 2nd floor you and your child will go through the surgery registration process. This is where they will get their patient wristband and an RFID tag that will help send updates to the family during the surgery process. If you want to receive updates right to your phone, this is when you’ll provide your phone number.

At this time, you’ll also be given a Family Presence badge to wear throughout the day, so that you can stay with your child in areas not usually accessible to the public.

 Child Life Program Pre Op


We have three Child Life Specialists on staff at Humber that show and teach kids and parents exactly what’s going to happen at every stage of the surgery journey, using a medical teaching kit.

The kids are encouraged to use the stethoscope, blood pressure monitor, and anaesthesia mask on a stuffed toy or on Pepper the humanoid robot.

Kids have the option to choose which scent they would like for anaesthesia, and younger kids will get to choose the pajamas they would like to wear instead of scrubs.



Getting to the Operating Room

At Humber River Hospital, kids get to decide how they want to get to the operating room (OR). They can choose between driving a toy Tesla, riding a tricycle, getting a wheelchair ride, hitching a ride in a wagon, or walking to the OR themselves. They can even bring a toy with them! Parents are with their kids every step of the way.


Anaesthesia (Hug and Hold)

Once inside the operating room, parents are given an active role in comforting and coaching their kids during their anaesthetic. For smaller kids, this may look like the parents holding their kids in their arms as they fall asleep. For older kids, this may look like the parents holding their hand. At every stage, it is important that the child and parents feels comfortable.

Our Child Life Specialists make sure that parents are completely briefed on what to expect in the operating room, so that even once the anaesthesia starts to take effect everyone in the room feels prepared.


Child Life Program STERIS

During the Operation

Once the child is asleep, the parents and Child Life Specialist will leave the OR together and return to the waiting area.

Thanks to STERIS RealView technology, parents (and other family members anywhere) can opt to receive text updates to their smartphones, updating them on the child’s progress. They can also track surgical progress on one of the television screens in the waiting area. Each patient is given a case number so that they may remain anonymous to others viewing the screens.

STERIS will update the family when their child is ready to receive visitors, so family members can leave the waiting room for a meal or a coffee without having to worry that they will miss any updates. Loved ones at work or abroad can also opt to receive notifications as updates become available.


Post Anaesthesia Care Unit, Surgical Daycare, and Beyond

Thanks to Humber’s Family Presence Program, our patients are able to wake up from surgery to a familiar face. This is especially important for our younger patients.

When patients are just waking up from surgery in the Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU), they are often nauseous and disoriented, and are still being monitored closely by nursing staff. The norm in healthcare is not to have family members present in a hospital PACU, but at Humber River Hospital, patients are allowed to have a loved one there as soon as they wake up.

If the child is at the Hospital for day surgery, they will be moved to surgical daycare when they’re stable to rest before they are discharged. For our patients who need some more time to heal, they will eventually be moved from surgical daycare to their inpatient room.


Making sure that our patients and their families feel empowered and safe on surgery day is part of Humber River’s patient-centered approach to healthcare.