How does the experience upon the parents of surgical patients on the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital HDU differ to those on other wards?

Nina Anderson*
Brighton and Sussex Medical School, UK*
Having an operation is not only a scary experience for a child, but undoubtedly for parents too. The environment of a hospital is quite unfamiliar, particularly the High Dependency Unit (HDU). HDU is provided for children requiring a higher level of monitoring and support.

We wished to explore whether parents found admission to HDU particularly difficult in their journey through the hospital, and if so, whether there were any modifications that could be put in place to try and alleviate these.

A qualitative study using a series of short semi-structured interviews carried out with parents of 19 children in, or having been in, HDU, and 5 parents of children having day case operations was undertaken. The nature of day case operations marks them as low risk and able to return home on the same day. Consent was sought from all parents prior to interview.

In contrast to our initial hypothesis, being admitted to HDU did not seem to bother parents. Instead they appreciated the attention that both they and their child were receiving. Parents of multiple HDU visits expressed a strong trust in the HDU service. 3 of the parents commented that is was, conversely, the “step down” in care that troubled them; moving away from HDU onto the surgical ward.

The data collected has identified that parents seem to cope well with their child being admitted to HDU. Credit is given to the staff, who the parents repeatedly praised. Attention has also been drawn to the concerns that parents have when moving away from HDU. This provides an area of potential service improvement.

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