Special caps help ease children’s fears about surgery at the William Harvey Hospital

Abel Jenkins with his cap. Image shows a young boy in a hospital environment wearig a fabric cap with Harry Potter on. He is giving a thumbs up.

Published 18 November 2022

Having surgery at any age can be daunting, but staff at East Kent Hospitals have devised a scheme to make the experience less scary for children and young people.

Surgical care practitioner Patricia Velazquez-Ruta and anaesthetist John Coombes came up with the idea of creating caps in special fabrics for the children to wear during their operation.

Youngsters admitted to Padua Ward at the William Harvey Hospital for surgery can choose from a range of fabrics including unicorns, Marvel Heroes, Star Wars, and Harry Potter, with their anaesthetist wearing a matching one.

The caps have been created by volunteers from the Ashford, Dover & Folkestone Scrubbers, the fabric is funded by the Friends of the William Harvey Hospital, and Made in Ashford have also lent their support by providing meeting space for the group.

Dover mum Cassie Jenkins, whose six-year-old son Abel had his tonsils removed, said the project really helped him feel at ease.

She said: “He was really nervous beforehand but the staff were absolutely fantastic and being able to choose his own cap really helped.

“It meant he felt a bit more in control of the process and he was so proud to take his cap home and show his siblings.

“It made the experience a lot more fun and put him at ease, and Patricia was brilliant at explaining the project and chatting to him.

“We really felt cared for and I think it’s an amazing project.”

Patricia, who also runs a textile design company, said: “The idea is to make children and young people feel more empowered, and part of the team and the process, and to make their surgery feel less scary.

“Before the project, they would be the only person in theatre not wearing a cap, so giving them the option to choose one really helps them to bond with the team and makes it more fun.

“They will be able to keep the cap as a memento of their visit.”

The children’s surgical caps project is initially a pilot at the William Harvey Hospital and the team are collecting feedback and will write a research paper on its impact. They hope to expand it to other hospitals within the Trust if it proves to help ease children’s nerves and improve their experiences.