Surgery doesn’t have to be scary

NANAIMO – Children who to go to Nanaimo Regional General Hospital for surgery will know what to expect thanks to a new online photo tour

Children who to go to Nanaimo Regional General Hospital for surgery will have a much better idea of what to expect thanks to a new online photo tour created for young patients and their parents.

The narrated photo tour, available at, provides a detailed look at the procedures for surgery – from arriving at hospital and checking in, to meeting the anesthesiologist and other members of the health care team, to a view of the operating room – described as looking like the inside of a spaceship.

“Going to hospital can be difficult for a child. There are unfamiliar settings and sensations and possible fears of lack of control and separation from parents,” said Kelly Raymond, child life specialist at NRGH.

Raymond works with young patients and their parents to prepare them for surgery by providing suggestions such as what to bring to hospital and how parents can best offer reassurance depending on the age of their children. Raymond has seen children distressed simply by the prospect of having to wear an identification bracelet or change into hospital pajamas.

“A major goal of Child Life Specialists is to help minimize or remove sources of stress related to health care experiences and help children and families cope as effectively as possible,” Raymond said.

Raymond was inspired to work with colleagues to create a photo tour of NRGH when she was doing volunteer work in Morocco with Operation Smile. That international charity provides reconstructive surgery for children born with cleft lips and cleft palates. Raymond’s role was to prepare children and their families for surgery partly by showing them photographs about the setting and the procedures.

“There was a lot of fear especially for the children, dealing with foreign medical workers and being separated from their parents for the surgery. The photos provided a sense of predictability, familiarity and helped relieve a lot of fear of the unknown,” Raymond said.

With the support of the Child Life Council mentorship program, Raymond collaborated with Ken Smith, of Vancouver Island Health MultiMedia Services to develop the five-minute audio-visual tour.

Raymond sees advantages in having the photo tour available online, especially for families who may have to travel for several hours to reach Nanaimo.

More than 2,500 patients 17 years old and younger have surgery at Vancouver Island Health facilities each year.

About 870 pediatric surgeries are performed at NRGH each year.

The video is available at