Getting prepared…

What is the outpatient department (OPD)

An outpatient department (OPD) or outpatient clinic is the part of a hospital designed for the treatment of outpatients – babies or children who need to go to hospital for diagnosis or treatment, but do not at this time need to be admitted for overnight care in hospital. Outpatient departments offer a wide range of treatment services, diagnostic tests and minor surgical procedures.

  • Consultants are doctors who are experts on a particular diagnosis or type of medical care. They work in outpatient clinics and also care for children who are admitted to hospital for treatment.

  • You might be referred to a consultant by your GP/primary care doctor after a hospital admission or a trip to the emergency department.

  • Some children will have more than one consultant or may have consultants in different hospitals – this is called shared care. Parents have shared some advice and tips if your child receives shared care between consultants and hospitals.

Getting there – travel and parking

  • Parking – Make sure you know where to park and what sort of payment is accepted. Visit our hospital information page for important information about each of the hospitals you might visit.

  • Leave plenty of extra time in case of delays – hospital car parks can be very busy, and it can be difficult to find parking – you might have to use other parking nearby.

  • Try to arrive about 15 minutes early for your appointment in case you need to complete paperwork.

  • There can be a long walk from parking to your appointment  – having a buggy can be useful!

  • It may be possible to request transport from BUMBLEance – Children’s Ambulance Service who provide transport to and from hospitals all over Ireland (including outpatient appointments) for children who are sick or who have additional needs. They provide transport for long and short trips!

What to bring with you

What you need to bring will be different for every child and appointment. The list below includes some items you may need.

For All appointments

  • Appointment letter

  • List of medication, medication schedule, dietary supplements, etc. and any medicines your child may need during the day.

  • Any forms you need to get signed e.g social welfare, DCA etc.

  • List of questions to ask and things you need to tell the doctor.

  • Your child’s medical history or health passport if they have one.

For your baby or child

  • Have a change of clothes for your child with you or in your car.

  • Nappy changing bag with supplies for a full day in case you are delayed.

  • Distraction or comfort items – Activities, IPAD, colouring book and pencils, teddy, soother, etc.

  • Your child’s communication tool or device.

  • Snacks for you and your child. If your child is having a test or procedures make sure it is ok for them to have a snack.

For parents/carers

  • Notepad and pen – write out your questions and concerns before you go and take notes of what the doctor tells you

  • Phone charger

  • Bottle of water and snack

  • Coins for parking or vending machines – some don’t take cards.

At the appointment

Useful Tips

  • Write notes in advance about things you want the doctor to look out for e.g. things you’ve noticed at home.

  • Don’t let yourself be rushed. Go over your questions and concerns.

  • Make sure you understand what your doctor is telling you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about something you don’t understand or something your doctor hasn’t covered.

  • Ask them to write down the treatment plan, tests and follow up care.

  • Read our tips below on how to support your child during a procedure such as taking blood.

  • It is easy to forget what you are told at a meeting – Take notes or some parents suggest asking can you record what you are told so you can listen back later.

Involving your child in their healthcare and appointments

Children and teens are often interested in being included in discussions about their health care. Every child will want different information and to be involved in different ways – some will want lots of information or involvement, some won’t and what they want can also change over time. Let your child lead the way in how much information they want and how they want to be involved.

  • Start talking to your child as early as possible about their condition, in words that they understand.
  • Ask your child what they already know or would like to find out.
  • Check back with your child about how much they want to be involved in their health care. All children have a right to be involved, but some might not want this.
  • Be open and honest with your child. This will help build trust and avoid any “surprises” later on.
  • Work with your child and your child’s health-care team to make decisions about health care together.
  • Visit for more advice on involving young people in their healthcare and preparing to move from paediatric to adult healthcare services.

Before leaving the appointment…

Make sure all of your questions have been answered and you have all of the information you need before you leave your appointment. Here are some questions you may need to ask:

  • Is there anyone you need test results or a report to be sent to e.g. GP, other consultants? Write a list of names and contact information in advance.

  • Who do you contact if you have follow-up questions or concerns? There may be a nurse specialist who can answer queries after or between appointments

  • If your child has blood tests, scans or other test, when will you get the results and how will they be sent to you?

  • Do you need to schedule any tests or follow ups? Are they booked?

General appointment tips

  • Read the admission letter  – make sure you know if there are special instructions such as fasting before a test or procedure.

  • Appointments are often only ten to twenty minutes, so it is important to be prepared – write out notes about things you need to tell the doctor and questions you want to ask.

  • Try to find out as much as possible what will happen during the appointment so you can prepare your child e.g. checking height and weight, examination by the doctor, equipment that will be used, planned tests.

  • If your child finds appointments or procedures very stressful ask if supports are available such as a play specialist, sensory or quiet room or any other supports.

  • Bring any forms that need to be signed, or send them in advance.

  • Be prepared in case your hospital visit is longer than expected – sometimes your child will be sent for additional tests such as blood work.

  • Ask if a virtual appointment is an option if the appointment does not include tests or an in-person assessment of your child.

  • Fill in a health passport – For some children it can be useful to create a health passport with information about your child’s diagnosis, treatment history, their likes and dislikes and the child’s needs. You can provide this instead of repeating all this information for different people.

  • Make sure to find out in advance who can attend – most clinics only allow one parent and siblings are generally not allowed.

Top Tip

It is important to prepare your child for appointments and procedures so they know what to expect.
Make sure you read our information about how to support your child before and during
appointments and medical procedures

Click here to learn more

Preparing and supporting your child

Before you go – Talking to your child about their appointment and tests and procedures

It is important to prepare your child for tests and procedures. The information below is general advice that might help you prepare your child. Every child is different and will want different information –  Ask your child what they want to know and how they want to be involved.

Try to find out as much as you can about what to expect at your child’s appointment, what procedures might take place and what equipment might be used. This will help you answer questions your child might have. Ask your child’s care team if you have a contact number or person. Visit our At The Hospital Page for information on what to expect, or check out the useful resources below where you can find advice to help you prepare.

Make sure to tell your child in advance if they have a medical appointment or procedure coming up so they can ask questions and so they are prepared. For younger children, a day or two in advance is soon enough so they don’t start to worry. Ask what they would like to know as not all children want details! Try and find a quiet space with no distractions while you talk to your child.

Depending on their age, it can help for your child to play doctor with their stuffed animals or dolls, using toy medical instruments. Medical play helps your child become familiar and comfortable with the equipment that might be used and what will happen. Check out these videos about using play to prepare your child.

Try to make sure that you understand the procedure so that you can easily and confidently answer any questions your child may have. Tell the truth – If your child is having a procedure which might hurt, like a blood test or getting a cannula, don’t tell them it won’t hurt, but try to use gentle language to explain what will happen. Ask if your child can get cold cream/spray or a local anaesthetic to help reduce any pain from a procedure.

Make sure you carefully choose what language you use to explain a procedure to a child. Words like “needle” can put a child into a panic, so try to soften the word by explaining that he or she may experience a “pinch” or an “ouchie” at this visit. Remind the child that the treatment will make them healthier.

For some children it can be useful to use pictures or watch videos about the procedure or equipment. Make sure you ask what they want – not all children want all the details. Check out this useful website with child friendly videos about different tests and procedures you can watch with your child if they want. Make sure to watch the video yourself first so you know what is included.

Try to involve your child in getting ready, or by asking what they would like to know or how they would like to be involved. Younger children might want to decide which teddy or toy they want to bring, older children might want to plan how you can help or distract them during a procedure. Check out for information on involving young people and teens in their healthcare planning and medical appointments.

For infants, caregivers provide comfort, but for toddlers and pre-schoolers, let the child help choose toys, books or blankets that they want to bring to the visit. I-pads or phones are useful distractions during procedures. These items can be used to pass the time in the waiting room and also can be used to distract a child during a procedure.

Watch this video to hear from children, parents and professionals about how they prepare at home for tests or procedures

Shared with kind permission from What? Why? Children In Hospital

At the appointment – How to comfort and support your child during a test or procedure

The following section provides general advice about how to support your baby or child during a hospital procedure such as a blood-test or x-ray. This is general advice and you should always discuss your child’s individual needs with an appropriate member of staff.

The information in this section is shared with kind permission from Edgehilll University – Children Coming To Hospital

  • Be positive and encouraging and give your child lots of praise.

  • Talk to your child in a calm voice and try to be calm yourself as they may pick up on your feelings.

  • Don’t tell your child “It will be over soon” or that “It will be okay” as this can make your child feel more anxious.

  • Try not to be distracted by what’s going on  – give your child your full attention.

  • Position yourself where your child can see and/or touch your skin. If possible try to use skin-to-skin contact.

  • Help your child choose a comfortable position for the procedure. You may be asked to help keep them still by sitting with them, cuddling or holding them. It is ok if you don’t want to hold them, but would like to stay.

  • If your child cries, let them know it’s ok to feel upset. If they become very upset, you can ask the staff if the procedure can be paused or stopped.

Supporting children of different ages during tests or procedures

  • Hold your baby if possible and gently pat or stroke them
  • Offer your baby or child their dummy if they have one
  • Talk softly, sing or play music
  • Offer a small feed during the procedure or five minutes before
  • Swaddle your baby
  • Give your baby a toy to hold
  • Sit your child on your lap if possible
  • Use pop up books, stories, music, light-up toys, videos, games or bubbles to distract your child.
  • Give your child favourite toys or other comforting things to hold.
  • Sing or talk softly and calmly to your child.
  • Sit your child on your lap if possible
  • Talk about favourite or familiar things or use your child’s imagination to make up a story together
  • Distract your child with a favourite book, game, toy, music or video
  • Encourage your child to take slow deep breaths or blow bubbles with them (if possible – ask staff first)
  • Talk softly and calmly to your child

What if my child has sensory difficulties or additional needs that can make appointments difficult for them

Healthcare settings such as the busy waiting rooms can be overwhelming environments for children with sensory challenges or additional needs. Here are some tips to help make your next trip easier!

  • Call the office in advance and let them know your child has additional needs that can make waiting and appointments difficult. Ask what supports are available and don’t be afraid to ask for what you need to make your appointment go as smoothly as possible.

  • Ask if it is possible to schedule your appointment at the beginning or end of the day –  the waiting room might be less crowded and overwhelming and there might less waiting.

  • Ask if a second parent or extra support person is allowed attend.

  • Ask if there is there a sensory room or a quiet space available for waiting?

  • Tell the doctor or nurse what your child needs or expects. For example explaining or demonstrating what they are going to do first.

  • Make sure to pack any communication devices/tools, comfort or sensory items your child might need.

  • Create a “Hospital Passport” with information about your child and their needs, how they like to communicate, their likes and dislikes – ask the doctor or nurse to look at this first. Mercy University Hospital in Cork have created a medical passport for children with complex medical or additional needs which you may find useful.

Watch this video to hear from parents how they prepare their child with a learning disability for hospital

Shared with kind permission from What? Why? Children In Hospital

Useful resources and information

See below for a listing of useful resources to help you prepare your child for hospital and procedures. 


Widgit/Symbol Flashcards and Booklets – Hospital admissions, appointments and procedures

Download Resource Packs provides a section with free symbol/widget based flashcards and booklets to help prepare children with additional needs for hospital appointments, procedures or staying in hospital. Please note this resource is from a UK website.


Preparing a child with a learning disability for hospital – video

Preparing a child with a learning disability for hospital

This video shows interviews with parents of children with a learning disability. The parents share experiences and different ways they prepare their child for going to hospital, the doctor, the dentist or the optometrist. Please note this is resource is from a UK website.


Child friendly videos and information about hospital tests and procedures

This website provides lots of resources about going to hospitals, procedures and equipment. You can use the videos, information sheets and other resources to help you prepare your child and know what to expect before a procedure, appointment or hospital admission.