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Adolescent test or procedure preparation


Preparing for a medical test or procedure can reduce anxiety, encourage cooperation, and help your adolescent develop coping skills.

Alternative Names

Test/procedure preparation - adolescent; Preparing adolescent for test/procedure; Preparing for a medical test or procedure - adolescent


There are many ways to help an adolescent prepare for a medical test or procedure.

First, provide detailed information and explain the reasons for the procedure. Let your adolescent take part and make as many decisions as possible.


Explain the procedure in correct medical terms. Tell your adolescent why the test is being done. (Ask your health care provider to explain it if you are not sure.) Understanding the need for the procedure may reduce your adolescent's anxiety.

To the best of your ability, describe how the test will feel. Allow your adolescent to practice the positions or movements that will be required for the test, such as the fetal position for a lumbar puncture.

Be honest about discomfort your adolescent may feel, but don't dwell on it. It may help to stress the benefits of the test, and to say that the test results may provide more information. Talk about things that your adolescent may enjoy after the test, such as feeling better or going home. Rewards such as shopping trips or movies may be helpful if the adolescent is able to do them.

Tell your adolescent as much as you can about the equipment that will be used for the test. If the procedure will take place in a new location, it may help to tour the facility with your adolescent before the test.

Suggest ways for your adolescent to stay calm, such as:

  • Blowing bubbles
  • Breathing deeply
  • Counting
  • Creating a quiet, peaceful environment
  • Doing relaxation techniques (thinking pleasant thoughts)
  • Holding the hand of a calm parent (or someone else) during the procedure
  • Playing hand-held video games
  • Using guided imagery
  • Trying other distractions, such as listening to music through headphones, if allowed

When possible, let your adolescent make some decisions, such as deciding the time of day or the date of the procedure. The more control a person has over a procedure, the less painful and anxiety-producing it is likely to be.

Allow your adolescent to participate in simple tasks during the procedure, such as holding an instrument, if allowed.

Discuss possible risks. Adolescents are often concerned about risks, particularly about any effects on their appearance, mental function, and sexuality. Address these fears honestly and openly if at all possible. Provide information about any appearance changes or other possible side effects the test may cause.

Older adolescents may benefit from videos that show adolescents of the same age explaining and through the procedure. Ask your health care provider if such films are available for your adolescent to view. It may also be helpful for your adolescent to discuss any concerns with peers who have managed similar stressful situations. Ask your health care provider if they know any teens who are interested in doing peer counseling, or if they can recommend a local support group.


If the procedure is done at a hospital or your health care provider's office, ask if you can stay with your adolescent. However, if your adolescent does not want you to be there, honor this wish. Out of respect for your adolescent's growing need for privacy and independence, do not allow peers or siblings to watch the procedure unless adolescent asks them to be there.

Do not show your own anxiety. Looking anxious will make your adolescent more upset and worried. Research suggests that children are more cooperative if their parents take measures (such as acupuncture) to reduce their own anxiety.

Other considerations:

  • Ask your health care provider to limit the number of strangers entering and leaving the room during the procedure. This can raise anxiety.
  • Ask that the provider who has spent the most time with your adolescent be present during the procedure, if possible.
  • Your adolescent may have a hard time with a new authority figure entering the situation. This complication can be reduced if someone he or she knows performs the test. Otherwise, your adolescent may show some resistance. Prepare your adolescent in advance for the possibility that the test will be done by someone he or she doesn't know.
  • Ask that anesthesia be used, if appropriate, to reduce any discomfort.
  • Assure your adolescent that his or her reactions are normal.


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Bray L, Callery P, Kirk S. A qualitative study of the pre-operative preparation of children, young people and their parents for planned continence surgery: experiences and expectations. J Clin Nurs. 2012;21:1964-73. PMID: 22487535

Fincher W, Shaw J, Ramelet A-S. The effectiveness of a standardized preoperative preparation in reducing child and parent anxiety: a single-blind randomized controlled trial. J Clin Nurs. 2012;21:946-55. PMID: 22300416

Khan KA, Weisman SJ. Nonpharmacologic pain management strategies in the pediatric emergency department. Clin Ped Emerg Med. 2007;8:240-247.

LeRoy S, Elixson EM, O'Brien P, et al. Recommendations for preparing children and adolescents for invasive cardiac procedures: a statement from the American Heart Association Pediatric Nursing Subcommittee of the Council on Cardiovascular Nursing in collaboration with the Council on Cardiovascular Diseases of the Young. Circulation. 2003;108:2550-64. PMID: 14623793

Stock A, Hill A, Franz BE. Practical communication guide for pediatric procedures. Emergency Medicine Australasia. 2012;24:641-646. PMID: 23216725

Yip P, Middleton P, Cyna AM, Carlyle AV. Non-pharmacological interventions for assisting the induction of anaesthesia in children. Department of Paediatric Anaesthesia, Starship Children's Hospital, Auckland, New Zealand. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2009 Jul 8:CD006447. PMID: 19588390

Review Date:5/14/2014
Reviewed By:Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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