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Friday, 25 October 2002

How children make sense of medical procedures

Researchers at Sydney Children's Hospital, Randwick are examining how children obtain information and add meaning to their hospitalisation and treatments, particularly when their admission to hospital is unexpected.

A recent study led by the Nursing Professorial Unit at Sydney Children's Hospital, Randwick, led to a paper entitled 'Children's efforts to make sense of intravenous cannulation' published recently in the Australian Nursing Journal, October 2002.

A randomised controlled trial, testing a pre-discharge 'de-briefing' session for children between 5 and 14 years of age admitted to hospital with an acute condition uncovered several common misunderstandings surrounding the procedure of intravenous cannulation.

The researchers found that children, in the absence of clear and age-appropriate explanations made their own 'best guesses', often based on comments made by hospital staff (or parents) during the procedure.

The study reported that while there are some strong patterns in children's understandings and misunderstandings, the importance of acknowledging the uniqueness of each child's experience and interpretation remains paramount. This is a major challenge in a busy Hospital setting.

One of the findings was that while it may not be possible to provide explanations prior to a procedure, it was often useful and effective to do this after the procedure.

'The children's satisfaction in examining and discussing their treatments and the associated equipment was evident in our study. We found that the experience of touching equipment, combined with sensitive discussion was extremely useful in identifying and clarifying misunderstandings', said Prof. Jackie Crisp, Child and Adolescent Nursing at Sydney Children's Hospital, Randwick.

'We took the approach that the children involved in the study had control over the amount and focus of discussion that took place.

'It is not beneficial to force explanations onto children who are not ready to hear in a one-approach-fits-all manner. Supporting children and allowing them to talk about their experiences, appeared to contribute to children's understanding and a left them more 'at ease' with their hospitalisation', said Prof Crisp.

For Further Information Contact:

Catharina Boer, Public Affairs Manager Tel: 9382 3571 - Mob: 0411 730 842

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