Supporting children with procedural anxiety

Meet Michael Stylianou, Senior Operating Department Practitioner (SODP). By helping manage and understand their procedural anxiety, Michael supports children and families at GOSH in recognising, recording and responding to procedural anxiety. 

The impact of patients' anxiety 

“75% of the children presenting for surgery will experience anxiety on crossing the hospital threshold,” Michael explains, “and many will demonstrate the development of new negative behaviour as a result. Around 12% will still demonstrate this new negative behaviour up to a year after treatment. 

"Patients’ anxiety can impact them in a number of ways, starting with a poor hospital experience, slower recovery, a greater need for pain medication, and moving on to low self-esteem and declining school performance." 

Supporting their concerns 

As part of his daily role, Michael works with children and young people identified as having procedural anxiety: "I will visit them on the ward and will establish their individual needs, ensure that staff working with these children are aware of these needs, accompany these children to theatre, and in some cases assist the anaesthetist with the induction of anaesthesia." 

He also carries out tours of the theatre where children can play and interact with medical equipment to help with their anxiety, as well as getting them to make note of their worries: “I try to get them to document their concerns themselves by writing them down, pen to paper. They like that they are heard and taken seriously. Common and specific concerns range from fear of death, needles, cannulas, not waking up after surgery and parents not being by their side. We can desensitise and break down these fears to support children to cope with their procedural anxiety." 

Michael supported patient Noah who features in the second series of Paul O'Grady's Little Heroes: “Noah is funny and smart, and initially was very anxious. I met him in the canteen a couple of days after his surgery. He said he already felt better and that he was very pleased with his scar at the base of his skull, which he thought was really neat!” 

One team 

Explaining why he chose to work at GOSH, Michael shares: “GOSH is able to offer treatments and procedures to diseases and conditions that most health care professionals will have only read about in a book. I also just love working with children. I have two of my own. 

“My colleagues are amazing, they often don’t realise how knowledgeable they are. I’ve been qualified for 42 years and have had the privilege to work in every major teaching hospital in London, but it’s this team that I would pick over any other. From our Head of Nursing, Ciara McMullin, who often places the needs of patients and colleagues above her own needs (cheesy but true), to our Domestic Services worker Mahmood who walked for four hours in the snow to get to work when the transport system was affected (dramatic but true), this team is who I choose, every day.”