Aims and objectives: To explore children's, parents' and nurses' views on participation in care in the healthcare setting.
Background: Children have a right to be consulted and involved in their care.
Design: The grounded theory method was used and data were collected through in-depth interviews, questionnaires and observation. Sample consisted of 11 children, 10 parents and 12 nurses from four paediatric wards in two hospitals in England.
Results: Parents felt that children should be involved in the decision-making process thereby enhancing and promoting children's self-esteem and positive self-regard, which would consequently enhance their overall welfare. Likewise, children expressed the need for consultation and information so that they could understand their illness; be involved in their care, and prepare themselves for procedures. However, children's own opinions and views were underused and they had varying experiences of being consulted about their care and treatment. Nurses appeared to hold varying and discrepant views on the involvement of children in decisions and for some nurses, the child's involvement seemed to be dependent on the child's cognitive maturity and being defined as a rational subject.
Conclusion: Health professionals' communication behaviour may reflect recognition of children's cognitive abilities rather than their competence to understand. The fact that children's nurses appeared to make decisions about involving children in decision making in the absence of a reliable framework was a significant finding and highlights a real problem in the current climate.
Relevance to clinical practice: Nurses faced with workforce pressures may encounter considerable challenges to facilitating children's involvement in decisions about their care. Hence it is imperative that nurses' examine the basis of their decisions and use more explicit criteria for determining children's involvement.