Objectives: To determine if allowing 1 or both parents to be present during invasive procedures reduces the anxiety that parents experience while their child is in the pediatric intensive care unit; to evaluate if the parent's presence was helpful to the child and parent; and to determine whether this presence was harmful to the nurses or physicians.
Design: A prospective study using surveys (5-point Likert scale) of parents of children requiring intubation, placement of central lines, or chest tubes. Additional surveys were completed by bedside nurses to evaluate the effects of parental presence.
Setting: A 12-bed pediatric intensive care unit in upstate New York.
Participants: The study population consisted of the parents of 16 children undergoing 1 or more procedures; 7 had undergone intubation, 11 had central lines placed, and 2 had chest tubes placed. The control population consisted of the parents of 7 children undergoing 1 or more procedures; 7 had undergone intubation, 5 had central lines placed, and 3 had chest tubes placed.
Results: Parental presence significantly reduced the parental anxiety related to the procedure (P = .005; Mann-Whitney test), but did not change condition-related anxiety (P = 0.9; Mann-Whitney test). Thirteen of 16 parents found their presence helpful to themselves (10 very, 3 somewhat) and the medical staff (11 very); 14 of 16 found their presence helpful to their child (11 very). Fifteen (94%) of 16 parents would repeat their choice to watch. Fifteen (94%) of 16 nurses found parents' presence helpful to the child (9 very) and to the parents (10 very). One nurse found a parent's presence somewhat harmful to nurses and very harmful to the parent. Thirteen (72%) of 18 nurses indicated that allowing parents to observe procedures was an appropriate policy. There were no significant differences noted in response of nurses based on years of experience.
Conclusions: Allowing parental presence during procedures decreases procedure-related anxiety. The implications of such a policy change on physicians and other aspects of pediatric intensive care, including medical education, need further evaluation.