Exploration of the Relationship Between a Group Medical Play Intervention and Children's Preoperative Fear and Anxiety

J Pediatr Health Care. 2021 Jan-Feb;35(1):74-83. doi: 10.1016/j.pedhc.2020.08.001. Epub 2020 Sep 12.


Introduction: Surgical procedures place children of all ages at risk for pediatric medical traumatic stress. Although medical play has proven effective in pediatric care, little is known about the impacts of a group medical play intervention on children's preoperative fear and anxiety. Therefore, the purpose of this pre-post quasi-experimental study was to explore the relationship between a group medical play activity and children's preoperative fear and anxiety.

Method: Fifty children (aged 5-10 years) scheduled for a medical procedure participated in a group medical play session facilitated by a Certified Child Life Specialist.

Results: Statistically significant decreases in anxiety and self-reported fear were observed after the intervention, suggesting that medical play may generate additional coping benefits when offered in group formats.

Discussion: Providing children with the opportunity to explore and become familiar with medical equipment through group medical play can help to minimize preoperative anxiety and improve the patient experience for children and their families.

Keywords: Surgery; anesthesia; anxiety; fear; play.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Anxiety* / prevention & control
  • Child
  • Fear*
  • Humans