Ward life

Children's cancer wards are generally friendly, positive places and staff will offer both you and your child plenty of help and support. However, spending lots of time in this environment has its challenges.

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 - 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. 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 and cope with their treatment.
  • Feel free to draw the curtain round and spend some quiet time with your child when you need to. Occasionally, you may be asked not to do this if staff want to closely observe your child. Just ask if you aren't sure. 

Taking care of yourself

Being the parent of a child with cancer can be exhausting – physically and emotionally. In the first few weeks, it’s normal for parents to run on empty and carry on, despite feeling tired. This is difficult to maintain and it could lead to you ‘burning out’ or becoming ill yourself.

So - it's really important that you find ways to look after your needs as well. This will give you the strength and energy you need to cope while your child's having treatment.

Here's our guide, made with the help of other parents, with tips and advice on practical ways that you can do this.

Questioning your child's care

If you are unhappy with your child's care or questioning the reasoning behind a decision, ask to speak to the nurse in charge. Many things can be resolved quickly. If not, ask for an appointment with the ward manager. If you still feel the problem hasn't been resolved, you can go to the hospital's PALS office for confidential advice and support. 

Learn more about what you should expect from your child's NHS cancer care.

Where next?

Updated March 2018, next review due 2019.