So far in my academic and clinical experiences, I have noticed one important aspect about parents.
You have the toughest job.
You do everything to protect your child. You also do everything you can to make sure they are safe and healthy. You are in control with their routine, what they do, and how you interact with them. You know their likes, dislikes, the habits they have, the way they cry, the way they walk, and what makes them tick.
When they come into the healthcare setting, that all changes. Suddenly, you are out of control, doctors and nurses are telling you things that don’t make sense and are not coherent. All of the sudden, you cannot be in the room, whether by doctor’s orders, or even your choice.
In the end, your child is in pain, upset and anxious, and you do not know what to do.
This can be for any parent whether they are facing a chronic illness, or first-time immunizations.
I have worked with parents in both clinical and non-clinical settings. I have seen parents ready to be involved, while others are so scared of watching their child be in pain that they cannot engage.
Let’s make one thing clear: If you are anxious and concerned about your child, especially in the healthcare setting, you are NOT alone and what you are feeling is absolutely OKAY.
My intention of this blog post is to empower you: the parent. I’m here to empower you to empathize with you and also help you understand how you can still advocate for your child while still acknowledging your own feelings. This post today is discussing how you as an AMAZING parent can be fully present with your child during one aspect of their healthcare experience.
And that is for Procedure Preparation and Support.
Research is indicating that parental support for children during procedures is necessary and essential for your child’s development. Your active participation is important! (Some cited examples are listed below at the end of this blog post.)
After conducting my own research and information, I have not only offered resources for parents that you can find here, but also other considerations and things you can do to make any healthcare experience more positive for you, your child, and your family. Here are 5 tips I recommend for you, as AMAZING parents, to help you be able to support your child during any procedure in the healthcare setting:
- Regardless of the circumstance (whether the procedure is short-term like a check-up or Emergency Department visit, or long term like frequent blood draws or surgery), assure the child that you are there to support them and that the medical team is there to help them make their body well. I say it in this fashion because although they may experience pain, which doesn’t make them feel totally well, they will know that their body may feel different in a positive way than it did prior to the procedure.
- If you are unsure of what you can do, ask a Child Life Specialist, nurse, or other healthcare professional about how you can support your child. Let the healthcare professionals know your child’s typical coping responses and what will help them make the procedure go more effectively if possible.
- Provide an item that the child is familiar with and as appropriate, review with them what they might be experiencing. For older children and adolescents, if they ask you to leave the room during a procedure, respect this decision. It may be because they need as little of stimulation as possible or may be concerned about you will feel about it.
- If you have any concerns, do not hesitate to ask! This will help you and allow you to focus on your child when your own concerns are addressed about your child’s procedure.
- If you feel overwhelmed or too anxious to be confident enough to support your child, THAT IS OKAY! If you need to step out of the room during a procedure, let a healthcare professional or Child Life Specialist know and let your child know that you will step outside and return when the procedure is over.
As promised, below are more specific resources that you can use to learn about how to advocate for your child and presence during a procedure.
Current Research on Parent Support for Procedures:
Gooding, J. S., Cooper, L. G., Blaine, A. I., Franck, L. S., Howse, J. L., & Berns, S. D. (2011). Family support and family-centered care in the neonatal intensive care unit: origins, advances, impact. In Seminars in perinatology (Vol. 35, No. 1, pp. 20-28). WB Saunders. (Article here: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Judith_Gooding/publication/49775043_Family_Support_and_Family-Centered_Care_in_the_Neonatal_Intensive_Care_Unit_Origins_Advances_Impact/links/0a85e53092578c91e5000000.pdf)
Karlsson, K., Englund, A.-C. D., Enskär, K., & Rydström, I. (2014). Parents’ perspectives on supporting children during needle-related medical procedures. International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-Being, 9, 10.3402/qhw.v9.23759. http://doi.org/10.3402/qhw.v9.23759 (Article here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4090367/pdf/QHW-9-23759.pdf)
Mangurten, J., Scott, S. H., Guzzetta, C. E., Clark, A. P., Vinson, L., Sperry, J., … & Voelmeck, W. (2006). Effects of family presence during resuscitation and invasive procedures in a pediatric emergency department. Journal of Emergency Nursing, 32(3), 225-233.
Resources on How to Provide Support When your Child is in the Healthcare Setting:
From the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia: https://injury.research.chop.edu/sites/default/files/documents/at_hospital_child_cope_english.pdf
From the University of Rochester Medical Center-Golisano Children’s Hospital
From The Pediatric Society of New Zealand: