When should I tell my child about an upcoming surgery?

When should I tell my child about an upcoming surgery. When your child has an upcoming surgery or procedure, telling your child when they arrive at the hospital is generally a bad idea. So when to tell your child? Can it be too soon, too late? Amy Fregonese, child life specialist at TMC for Children, weighs in with some concrete advice on when and why to talk to your child about their surgery.

While talking about an upcoming surgery with your child may feel overwhelming, research has found that providing developmentally-appropriate preparation can help to decrease stress and anxiety before, during and after the experience.

When to tell your child:

Toddlers (1-3 years old)
Tell your child a day or two before. Toddlers are not able to understand the concept of time and may begin to worry if told too soon. It is normal for toddlers to become fussy and have behavioral changes before and after a procedure.

Preschoolers (3-5 years old)
Tell your child 3-5 days before the scheduled surgery. Too much time will allow fears and misconceptions to develop. Your child will be curious and will want to know what to expect.

Elementary school age (6-12 years old) 
Tell your child a week or two in advance. This will allow time to process the information and to develop and ask questions without allowing too much time for fears to develop. Your child needs details before, during and after the procedure.

Adolescents (12-18 years old)
Involve your teen in all aspects of planning for the surgery, including talks with the doctor. Allow teens to discuss and talk freely about their concerns. Allow them to maintain their independence and sense of control. Be supportive and honest.

What should I tell my child:

How much and when to tell your child will depend on age and developmental stage, personality, past health care experiences, and understanding of the illness or condition that is being treated.

You know your child best. Use your knowledge, along with the information you have gathered, to talk openly and honestly with your child. Focus on what your child will experience before and after the surgery. An expected stressor is less stressful than an unexpected stressor. Remember to ask your child what questions he or she has about surgery.

Finally, remember you child, no matter the age relies on cues from you. If you appear calm and confident, your child will be more relaxed.

A tour of the surgery area can help you and your child feel more comfortable and gain a better understanding of how things will proceed.

Amy Fregonese
Child Life Specialist

Surgery Tours

Our child life specialists can help your child understand surgery and what to expect. Pre-surgery and pre-admission tours are available. Most tours are geared for children ages 3 and up, but all ages and siblings are welcome. You can call (520) 324-1154 to set up a tour time that is best for your family.

Amy FregoneseAmy Fregonese, Child Life Specialist, specializes in supporting families as they prepare for and recover from surgery. Amy has been helping children and families at Tucson Medical Center for five years.





Help celebrate Physical Therapy month throughout October

EmilyBurdettePhysical therapists work hard to help patients improve their range of motion, strength and flexibility so they can lead their most active lives and obtain better outcomes.

National Physical Therapy month is held each October and Tucson Medical Center would like to take this time to recognize the impact of our therapists. A big thank you is in order for the 14 physical therapists and six physical therapy assistants in adult acute therapies, as well as the 11 therapists in pediatric therapies.

It’s also an opportunity to highlight the achievement of those therapists that have worked towards their advanced certifications.

According to the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialists, certification was established to:

  • recognize physical therapists with advanced clinical knowledge, experience, and skills in a special area of practice
  • assist consumers and health care community in identifying physical therapists who have advanced skills
  • address a specific area of patient need

Certification takes a great deal of work: Therapists must have extensive background in their specialty area including direct clinical hours and passing a board exam.  In order to maintain the certification, therapists must retake the exam and participate in professional development activities including service to the profession, teaching, and participation in research studies.

We caught up with Emily Burdette, who recently earned her certification, to learn more about the effort.

Why did you pursue this certification?

I wanted to pursue the designation of board-certified clinical specialist in pediatric physical therapy in order to demonstrate my commitment to the profession of pediatric physical therapy as well as my patients. I wanted to set myself apart as a clinician who is considered to have advanced clinical skills in pediatric physical therapy.

I pursued this certification as a commitment to further the profession of pediatric physical therapy. In order to become re-certified as a pediatric certified specialist, I must be active in the profession of pediatric physical therapy by attending continuing education courses, teaching physical therapy students during their clinical internships, participating in research projects, and becoming a mentor to other pediatric physical therapists.

Lastly, I wanted to pursue this certification to continue my commitment for life-long learning as a pediatric physical therapist. It is a personal commitment of mine as well as the other therapists working at Tucson Medical Center Pediatric Therapies to stay as up-to-date as possible on all research regarding the treatment of children. We all pride ourselves on the emphasis Tucson Medical Center Pediatric Therapies has on evidence-based practice.

How rigorous was the process? 

I studied every day for nine months for about 2-3 hours per day. I was busy reviewing various diagnoses that are seen by pediatric physical therapists in different areas of practice. I also reviewed research papers from the Pediatric Physical Therapy Journal and Physical Therapy Journal and took continuing education courses for diagnoses that I am not as familiar with. The actual test for certification was 6 hours long and 200 questions.

Was it worth it? 

It was worth the sacrifice so that I could provide the best evidence-based care to my patients. It helped me to review treatment of pediatric diagnoses I am familiar with as well as learn about the treatment of diagnoses I am not as familiar with. I believe that all of the studying and reviewing of research articles has made me a better, more knowledgeable pediatric physical therapist!​

Local firefighters spread Christmas kindness at TMC for Children

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Rural/Metro firefighters
Station 73

They weren’t dressed in your traditional Santa suits, but a group of Rural/Metro firefighters played St. Nick at TMC for Children. 

The guys from Station 73 paid a visit to our pediatric patients to hand out some adorable teddy bear stuffed stockings that were handmade by the residents at Strauss Manor.  They also gave each child a copy of the book Born to Wear Blue, written by local author Patty Vallance about children who dream about becoming firefighters when they grow up. 

Special thanks to Patty Vallance, the Greater Tucson Fire Foundation, Strauss Manor and Rural/Metro Fire for bringing a little Christmas cheer to these children!   

Rural/Metro Firefighter/Paramedic Captain Rob Moon hands a stocking to 5-year-old Adacelie

Rural/Metro Firefighter/Paramedic Captain Rob Moon hands a stocking to 5-year-old Adacelie

Rural/Metro Firefighter/Paramedic Captain Grant Cesarek chats with Jayden just as the 6-year-old is happily on his way home

Rural/Metro Firefighter/Paramedic Captain Grant Cesarek chats with Jayden just as the 6-year-old is happily on his way home

Pint-sized patients receive uplifting visit from local heroes

Firefighter/EMT Sean Sicurello and Firefighter/Paramedic Sheri Wenzel pose with a welcome sign made by TMC's Child Life Specialists

Firefighter/EMT Sean Sicurello and Firefighter/Paramedic Sheri Wenzel pose with a welcome sign made by TMC’s Child Life Specialists

It was all treats, and no tricks inside TMC for Children, as firefighters from the Old Pueblo Firefighting Association (OPFFA) paid a visit to some of TMC’s youngest patients.

Firefighter/Paramedics Sheri Wenzel and Mike Crain, along with Firefighter/EMT Sean Sicurello, were fresh off a 24-hour shift when they arrived to spend time with children who were eagerly awaiting their visit. 

Carlos Bustos, age 2

Carlos Bustos, age 2

“As first responders, we usually just transport children to the hospital, and it’s not very often that we get to actually see the hospital care they receive.  This is a great experience for us, and it’s our pleasure to be able to spend time with these deserving kids,” said Wenzel.

The firefighters went from room to room, giving each child a copy of Born to Wear Blue, a children’s book that was written by Tucson author Patty Vallance, along with a fire helmet and a pencil. 

Some patients, like 2-year-old Carlos Bustos, couldn’t wait for the crew to come to him, and instead decided to bolt out into the hallway to meet them.  He couldn’t get his helmet on fast enough.

The firefighters visit with Eduardo Armenta, age 11

The firefighters visit with
Eduardo Armenta, age 11

Eleven-year-old Eduardo Armenta was especially jazzed about the visit, and proudly communicated his knowledge of fire safety with the crew.  “If you are in a smoky house, get low to the floor, and get out.  Before you open any door, feel it first, and make sure it’s not hot,” he said.

Children were then invited to gather under the tree where Sicurello read the book aloud as children and their parents followed along.

“It’s really important for these children to have visitors when they’re in the hospital,” said Nikki Wells, TMC Child Life Specialist.  “It helps break up the monotony of their day, and really gives them something to look forward to – which is such an important part of the healing process.”

Firefighter/Paramedics Sheri Wenzel and Mike Crain, along with Firefighter/EMT Sean Sicurello

Firefighter/Paramedics Sheri Wenzel and Mike Crain, along with Firefighter/EMT Sean Sicurello

The firefighters also spent some time touring the facility in order to learn more about what their fundraising efforts will benefit.  OPFFA is currently selling a 2014 calendar in which a portion of the proceeds go to Children’s Miracle Network, TMC for Children. 

Children’s Miracle Network, TMC for Children is grateful for the various fundraising efforts carried out by individuals and businesses in the Tucson community.

Tucson Medical Center | 5301 E. Grant Road | Tucson, Arizona 85712 | (520) 327-5461