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Restraint as a Last Resort

For Children Needing Tests and Procedures

​​Needles and other medical procedures can be stressful for your child. Restraining your child for a procedure is also stressful. It’s best to include your child in conversations about what can be done to lower or avoid the need for restraint. Most healthcare providers, including Alberta Health Services (AHS), have a policy of ’Restraint as a Last Resort’.

To help your child feel safe and build coping skills, try to offer choices to give them a sense of control. This will help to build coping skills. If these things don’t work, the restraint used should limit your child the least and be used for the shortest time possible. This might include holding your child comfortably while distracting with a song or book.

What isn’t considered a restraint?

Safety devices or actions like:

  • crib rails and arm boards that used in everyday care of your child
  • putting an arm across your child while changing a diaper or holding their arm or leg to give an injection
  • belts or straps that are part of highchairs, swings, strollers, or car seats

What can be done to use restraint as a last resort?

Ask questions:

  • How important or necessary is the procedure?
  • What will happen if it’s not done?
  • Can this be done at a better time?

Other things to consider:

  • Develop a care plan with your child, your family and the healthcare team.
  • Ask your child who they want to be with them during the procedure. Consider involving a Child Life Specialist or other team member.
  • Be patient. This will make it easier this time and next time.
  • Be ready for the procedure to take slightly longer than expected.
  • Be willing to stop the procedure if it’s not going well and make a new plan.
  • Offer limited choices so your child can feel some sense of control like:
    • “Would you like to sit on my lap or sit on the chair?”
    • “Would you like me to read a story or shall we play Eye Spy?”
  • Have your child choose a fun activity to do after the procedure.
  • Stay calm. Take time for your child to build a relationship with the healthcare team.
  • Explain what will happen in simple terms.
  • Bring a special toy or blanket.
  • Celebrate with your child, talk about what went well.
  • Recognize what your child was able to do by themselves.

Helpful conversations for staff, family, and care partners

  • What has been done in the past?
  • What’s the best way to help?
  • How would you or other members of your family like to be involved?

Current as of: May 1, 2018

Author: Seniors Health Strategic Clinical Network, Alberta Health Services (Reviewed by Maternal, Newborn, Child and Youth Strategic Clinical Network)