Ward life

If your child has been admitted to hospital, they are probably staying on a children's cancer ward. These are generally friendly, positive places and staff will offer both you and your child plenty of help and support.

Ward life

Even so, many parents tell us they found seeing the ward for the first time challenging. They say it's hard to see other children who have no hair, who have tubes and drips or who look unwell.

It may be helpful to know that children usually only stay on the ward when they need inpatient treatment or if they are very unwell. Many children are eventually able to get on with their lives while continuing cancer treatment at home, at an outpatient clinic or during short stays in hospital.


You may find the lack of privacy on the ward difficult at first. Feel free to draw the curtain round and spend some quiet time with your child when you need to. Occasionally but not often, you may be asked not to do this if staff want to closely observe your child, or the child in the next bed and the curtain blocks the view. Just ask if you aren't sure.


Only your child is eligible for hospital meals, but there will usually be a kitchen where you can make a cup of tea and possibly prepare snacks. There are usually showers available for parents and a place to wash your clothes.


Many hospitals now have special wards or areas for teenagers who have cancer, where the facilities are better suited to older children.

Tips for coping with ward life:

  • Aim to get off the ward for a short break each day, even if it's just for a quick coffee or a walk around the block. Ward staff will support you with this. When you leave the ward, let a member of staff know how long you’ll be gone and how to contact you if necessary
  • Try to keep things as normal as possible for you and your child, and that includes the usual boundaries you set for their behaviour
  • If you have any worries or questions, talk to a member of your child's care team – they will have the answers you need. It may be helpful to write down questions as they occur, so you remember them
  • Most children's wards have a TV and video games available and these can be a useful way for you and your child to build relationships with other families
  • Try taking an active role in your child's care by helping them with meals, wheeling their drip, taking them to the toilet and so on
  • If your child is struggling to cope with aspects of treatment, most children's wards have play specialists who can help. They use play to help children understand what’s happening.

Reviewed November 2015, next planned review 2016.