Update to phone lines at our Birchmount and General Hospitals: If calling through Birchmount main line (416-495-2400), add “7” when dialing an extension. If calling through General main line (416-438-2911), add “8” when dialing an extension.

Surgery for Children

Surgery for Children

At SHN, we provide surgical procedures for children which may require an overnight stay on our paediatric inpatient unit. We also offer teaching to help kids prepare for their procedure, and encourage parents to stay with their kids in the operating room until they receive anesthesia and have fallen asleep.

Preparation for children having surgery is highly valued at SHN. We encourage you to tell your child about the upcoming procedure, allow them to ask questions and express any fears or concerns.

  • At SHN, the Child Life Specialists seek to make hospital experiences less stressful and better prepared for children and their families.
  • Child Life Specialists work with families and other healthcare team members to:
    • Prepare children for medical procedures and treatment using age and developmentally appropriate language
    • Introduce coping skills the child and families can use throughout their experience
    • Provide opportunities for play and encourage normal development
    • Improve child and family experience while at SHN

Child Life Centenary 416-284-8131 ext. 4091

Child Life General 416-438-2911 ext. 83414

For many children, surgery can be an unfamiliar and possibly frightening experience. Preparing a child before a surgery or procedure can reduce his or hers fears as well as manage parents own anxiety about the hospital experience. Preparation allows the child and family to know what to expect on the day of surgery and gives an opportunity to practice ways to cope.

Research has shown that children who are prepared for medical procedures experience less fear and anxiety and have better long term adjustment to medical challenges.

SHN was the first community hospital in the Greater Toronto Area to allow a parent/caregiver in the operating room with their child until they receive anesthesia and have fallen asleep. The ‘Til I Sleep Program recognizes the importance of supporting children throughout their surgical experience by including parents/caregivers. The Child life Specialist with prepare you and your child for this program and support you.

When your child is admitted to the hospital for day surgery or an overnight stay, you should bring the following items from home.

  • Comfort items (favourite blanket, toy(s), stuffed animal, books, tablets)
  • For an overnight stay please bring any needed toiletries (ex. Toothbrush/toothpaste)
  • Phone charger
  • Socks and slippers
  • Change of clothes and underwear
  • Child’s health card

A child having surgery may have one parent/caregiver with them during their stay. Siblings and extended family are requested to stay home on the day of surgery.

Meals for parents/caregivers may be purchased from food outlets at the hospital or can be brought from home. Families have access to the unit pantry with a water dispenser, microwave and fridge.

The doctor and/or nurse will discuss with you the plan for sending your child home once he/she has recovered. As needed, you will be given information on caring for your child at home. Be sure to ask about an special instructions regarding your child’s eating, drinking and activity level at home.

If needed, you will be provided with a prescription for medications your child may need to take home along with instructions for giving the medication.

Please be sure to arrange a ride home following the surgery and recovery period.

Child Life Services

Heath care experiences may be stressful for children of all age and may cause fear, confusion and changes in behavior. Research shows that paediatric patients benefit from knowing what is happening to them, lessening fear and anxiety. As a member of the healthcare team, Child Life Specialists help children and youth cope with the stress and uncertainty of illness, injury, disability, and hospitalization through play, education and support and make their experience as positive as possible.

  • Assessing the physical, social and emotional responses of the child, youth and family to illness and hospitalization in all areas of SHN.
  • Prepare children and youth for medical tests, procedures, surgery, and any other hospital experiences using age and developmentally appropriate language, medial play and education
  • Support and therapeutic interventions to promote coping during various hospital experiences and procedures
  • Help to make sure that life remains as normal as possible for paediatric patients while in the hospital offering play opportunities, celebrating holidays and creating a child-friendly environment
  • Promoting patient and family-centered care and advocacy for the psychosocial needs of the child, youth and family

Coming to the hospital can be stressful for your child, youth and the whole family. Knowing what to expect will help everyone be better prepared.

  • BE HONEST about what will happen. This will help your child or youth trust you and the team at SHN. The truth is often less scary than what children are actually thinking.
  • Ask questions, encourage your child or youth to ask questions, and have them tell you what they know. This is a good way to find out what their thinking.
  • Reassure them that it is okay to feel nervous or scared about coming to the hospital.
  • Explain that the hospital is a safe place and the staff are there to help us get better.
  • Give your child or youth some control by giving them age-appropriate choices: “which toy/activity would you like to bring?”
  • Bring familiar items from home. Comfort items such as blankets, robe/slippers, stuffed animals, books/toys, electronics/chargers
  • For older children and youth make a coping plan with ideas to help make a visit to the hospital easier. Practice your coping plan before coming to the hospital and share it with the healthcare team

Talk to your Child Life Specialist if you need guidance in preparing your child or youth to come to the hospital.

Child Life Centenary 416-284-8131 ext. 4091

Child Life General 416-438-2911 ext. 83414

Coping strategies can help a child or youth deal better with medical procedures or pain. Children and youth need an opportunity to choose and practice a coping method.

Here are some ideas:

  • Bubbles: using bubbles can encourage deep breathing which will help lower stress, anxiety and pain
  • Imagery: “going to a favourite place” encourages your child or youth to think of positive experiences
  • Toys/electronics: help distract your child (ex. Light spinner, tablets)
  • Books: reading together can help distract your child and encourage imagination
  • Music: can be relaxing and soothing and helps relieve stress
  • Fidget toys/stress balls: allows your child or youth to focus energy elsewhere



  • Franklin Goes to the Hospital by Paulette Bourgeois
  • Good-Bye Tonsils! By Juliana Lee Hatkoff and Craig Hatkoff
  • Clifford Visits the Hospital (Clifford the Big Red Dog) by Norman Bridwell
  • Curious George Goes to the Hospital by H.A. Ray
  • The Magic School Bus: Inside the Human Body by Joanna Cole and Bruce Degar

Contact Us

Centenary Hospital:
Centenary Hospital, 7th floor Paediatric Unit Phone: 416-284-8131 ext. 7234

General Hospital:
General Hospital, CP1 Paediatric Unit Phone: 416-438-2911 ext. 83415