Sick children are often sheltered from discussions about their health care. But a study published in the Journal of Clinical Nursing suggests that health professionals and parents would do better to consult children more and include them in decisions.
Researchers in Ireland spoke with 55 young people, ranging in age from 7-18 with acute or chronic illnesses. Most had been hospitalized previously (71%), stayed less than seven days (85%) and lived with two parents (80%). Some of the study’s findings were:
- Children said they want to take part in discussions about their health and treatment, and to have their views and concerns taken seriously.
- Knowing the health professionals helps children feel able to ask questions freely and express their concerns.
- Many children look to their parents to act as advocates and to explain what’s happening, and they rely on their parents because they have problems communicating with health professionals.
- The way health professionals communicate and behave can be an obstacle to children’s getting involved. Children said health professionals tend to “do things” to them with very brief explanations or none at all. Health professionals exclude them, they said, directing information at their parents using language they don’t understand.
- Children want to make “small” decisions but almost half want to leave “serious” decisions about issues like surgery to their parents and health professionals.