New team helps make sure childrens’ operations go as smooth as possible

Children due to have surgery at our hospitals are now being seen by a team of specialist nurses before their operation.

We have launched a new paediatric pre-assessment team, which carries out a holistic check of any child who is having an operation, or who requires an anaesthetic, at either Musgrove Park Hospital or our community hospitals at Burnham-on-Sea, Bridgwater, Minehead and Chard.

Alison Phillips, one of the specialist nurses in the team, said:

“Our small team plays such a vital role in the care of children before they come in for an operation.

“One of our first tasks is to refer to an information booklet that must be completed for every child who undergoes planned surgery. It has all the child’s relevant details, such as next of kin, health needs, any beliefs they may have, or even information about regular contact they may have with health or social care workers.

“We then review whether the child has had any problems with anaesthetics or operations in the past so we can pass this useful information onto the team who will perform the surgery.

“We also follow guidance from our anaesthetists before speaking to the child’s family about any do’s or don’ts that they need to be aware of in the days leading up to and on the day of the surgery itself.

“Sometimes we will see a child on the day to check their weight and height. We may even speak to their paediatrician if they have a history of conditions such as asthma or blood disorders.

“We want to involve the child in any conversation about their care so we explain fully about what will happen when they come into hospital so they have an expectation.

“We also let them know what they are able to bring in with them and we tell them about the changes we have made to make their care safer during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Since the pandemic we have tended to have a lot of telephone calls with parents in the first instance and this really helps to give us a sense of any anxieties the child may be having so we can arrange support, such as from our play therapy team on the ward so they can help us with preparation.

“In fact we have a box of toys, including pretend medical equipment, that helps children to get used to some of the items we use that could appear scary to them, such as masks, drips and needles. It has proven a real hit with the children!”

Louise Mould, who is also a specialist nurse in the team, said lockdown and the COVID-19 pandemic meant that they needed to focus even more on ensuring children were ready for their operations.

“Our role is to prevent a child coming in on the day of their operation with something cropping up that leads to it needing to be cancelled,” she said.

“We often liaise with specialist nurses in areas such as oncology, epilepsy, learning disabilities and safeguarding, as well as social workers so we can build a full picture of the child’s needs.

“And although we are always thorough in our pre-operative checks, the pandemic has meant we have even more to think about, such as needing to swab the child three days before their operation with the whole household then being advised to self-isolate.

“Children are also only able to have one parent with them at the moment, and although this can be difficult for the parents, we have found them to be understanding of the situation.”