News Release

Twenty per cent of parents feel uncertain caring for their child after discharge from pediatric emergency: study

Providing more updates, paying better attention to parents’ emotional needs could help ease pressures of ER crowding.

Peer-Reviewed Publication

University of Alberta

A cross-Canada study of the emotional needs of parents who bring their children to pediatric emergency departments shows a significant number leave feeling dissatisfied and uncertain about how to care for their child after discharge. 

In recently published research carried out at 10 Canadian children’s hospitals, the study team reports that 30 per cent of parent caregivers have unmet emotional needs, 15 per cent have unmet communication needs and 15 per cent feel inadequately involved in their child’s care. Though about 85 per cent of parents say they feel good or very good about their interactions with the doctors and nurses, only 82 per cent feel comfortable caring for their child at home afterwards. 

“The core theme is, ‘I am scared, for my child and for me,’” says emergency pediatrician Samina Ali, professor of pediatrics in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry. “They’re telling us, ‘I need you to educate me about my child’s condition. I need you to make sure that my child is included in this process and that I have enough information to care for them when I go home.’”

“There’s work we still can do together to improve families’ experiences,” says Shannon Scott, professor and acting dean of the Faculty of Nursing. “I think these results are going to be very persuasive for decision-makers in health-care institutions to help them make resource allocations and to design additional services and support for families,” says Scott.

More than 2,000 family caregivers — 74 per cent of them mothers — agreed to participate in the study. Parents were more likely to say their needs had been met if they felt their questions were answered, their child’s privacy was respected and they received regular updates on their child’s care. Parents with the sickest children were the most satisfied, whereas parents of less ill children were less likely to be satisfied — a circumstance Ali and Scott say is likely due to medical staff spending more time with the most acutely ill children.

Scott and Ali stress that better care is possible despite the pressures on staff with long wait times in overcrowded emergency departments.

“Take 10 to 20 seconds between patients to tell families, ‘I haven’t forgotten you,’” Ali advises. That update can make all the difference for how that family perceives their entire emergency department visit.”

The full story can be seen here. To arrange an interview with the researchers, please contact:

Ross Neitz | U of A media strategist | | 780-297-8354

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