Reducing Children’s Anxiety Before Surgery


When I graduate from Louisiana Tech, my plan is to go to medical school and then to go on from there, to become a pediatric surgeon. My Family and Child Studies professor, Mrs. Anita Pumphrey, is whom I chose to interview as my inspiration for writing this blog post because she got to work closely with children in the hospital that were getting ready to have surgery.

When she was a graduate student at Louisiana Tech in 1995, Mrs. Pumphrey needed something to do her thesis on and she decided to come up with a program to help children reduce their anxiety and increase their knowledge before they go into surgery. She was getting her masters degree in Human Ecology and needed to do her thesis on child life development. She wanted to work closely with the local hospital and she was hopeful that she would be able to help the children having to go through surgery cope with their situation and hopefully help them relax. I interviewed her in hopes of learning how she used technical communication while doing this project.

At, what was then, Lincoln General Hospital, she created a Pre-surgical Preparation Program. In this program, she provided information to the children on what they were actually going to go through. “A few days before their surgery, the children and their parents would come to the hospital and take a tour of and the children got shown a picture book that I made that showed them all of the rooms they would be in and all of the different tools that they would see the day of surgery” explains Mrs. Pumphrey. Pictures of this book can be seen here. The first picture is of the cover and the second picture is an example of what the inside looked like. She went on to explain, “This picture book was very helpful for the children because when they came for the actual surgery, they had already seen everything and weren’t surprised by anything”.

Cover of Picture Book

Cover of Picture Book

Inside of Picture Book

Inside of Picture Book

Before she could actually start this program, Mrs. Pumphrey had to present to the pediatrician board her idea for her plan and gave each of them a Teaching Outline. The outline included the tour of the hospital, the talk she would have with the children, the two tests the children got. This part of her research was where the technical communication came in the most. This teaching outline was basically an instruction manual for herself, the nurses, and the parents on what to expect out of the program.

The two types of tests the children did tested their knowledge and anxiety. The knowledge test asked the children about their surgery and measured how much they knew about what they were about to go through. The anxiety test asked the children to measure how they felt about doing certain things like (going to the doctor, going to a friends house, getting presents, etc).

The nurses were told to give the tests to each child and only Mrs. Pumphrey knew which patients did the program. After her research study was over, she discovered that the children who did the program had less anxiety when they came to have surgery and were more knowledgeable about the procedure they were about to go through. Even some of the nurses told her before they gave her their results that even though they did not know for sure which children went through the program, they could tell which children were more anxious because they were nervous about their surgery, and they could tell which children were more relaxed because they were told exactly what they were going to do and they were expecting everything.

In conclusion, Mrs. Pumphrey used technical communication while doing this project by creating the Teaching Outline to give to the pediatric board and to the nurses, and also used technical communication through her picture book that she would show to the children to explain to them what their day would consist of. It is absolutely certain that she could not have done this program, or even started it, without using technical communication throughout the hospital.
-Meghan Johnston, guest blogger


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