The impact on parents of a child's admission to intensive care: integration of qualitative findings from a cross-sectional study

Intensive Crit Care Nurs. 2009 Apr;25(2):72-9. doi: 10.1016/j.iccn.2008.10.002. Epub 2008 Nov 18.


Objectives: In this study, parents were asked which aspects of their experience of having a child in intensive care had caused them the most distress and how they continued to be affected by these experiences.

Research methodology: Semi-structured interviews held with 32 mothers and 18 fathers of children admitted to a paediatric intensive care unit 8 months earlier, were audiotaped, transcribed and subjected to a thematic analysis.

Setting: The setting was an eight-bed paediatric intensive care unit in an inner city teaching hospital.

Results: Significant themes included the vividness of parents' memories of admission; the intensity of distress associated with times of transition and the lasting impact of their experience, in terms both of the ongoing need to protect their child and in relation to their priorities in life. Fathers reported different coping strategies, spent less time on the unit and were less likely than mothers to report fearing that their child would die.

Conclusions: Parents report significant and persisting distress. Further research is needed on how best to support them acutely and in the longer term.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Child
  • Child, Hospitalized* / psychology
  • Child, Preschool
  • Communication
  • Cost of Illness
  • Critical Care / organization & administration
  • Critical Care / psychology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Intensive Care Units, Pediatric / organization & administration
  • London
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nursing Methodology Research
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Patient Admission*
  • Professional-Family Relations
  • Qualitative Research
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Social Support
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / prevention & control
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology