Childhood stress in healthcare settings: awareness and suggested interventions

Issues Compr Pediatr Nurs. 2015 Jun;38(2):136-53. doi: 10.3109/01460862.2015.1035465. Epub 2015 Apr 28.


Pivotal to healthy adulthood is a supportive and nurturing environment that enables successful progression through the developmental tasks of childhood and adolescence. For many children there are events that disrupt this development. Illness, injury, painful medical interventions, and hospitalization have been reported by children and families as causing medical trauma and psychological stress. Frequently pediatric health professionals focus primarily on achieving positive physical treatment outcomes. Creating an environment that will support the developmental tasks of childhood and limit the trauma and distress associated with illness and treatment is also required. Strategies and practices to deliver holistic and comprehensive pediatric care are well established in many Western settings. Opportunity exists to broaden the focus of pediatric care in developing healthcare systems such as the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to encompass psychological well-being. The study focused on two key objectives, firstly to assess healthcare professionals' awareness of the stressful and potentially traumatic nature of healthcare settings and treatment for children. Second the study explored the views of healthcare participants regarding possible strategies to minimize medically induced stress and trauma for children and adolescents in UAE healthcare settings. The study utilized a mixed methods design in which participants views were examined through administration of a survey comprised of close-ended questions that were analyzed quantitatively and open-ended questions analyzed qualitatively. One hundred and seventeen healthcare professionals from a range of disciplines in two government hospitals completed the survey. Data revealed that one third of the participating healthcare professionals were unaware of or did not think that their healthcare settings could provoke stress for pediatric patients. Respondents suggested three main strategies to minimize stress for children and parents while receiving treatments, specifically; providing focused information for both children and healthcare providers, adapting the environment and systems to fit children's needs, and, improving the interpersonal skills and attitudes of healthcare professionals. The findings from this study could inform the development of standards for pediatric services and policy directions in regard to post-graduate training for health professionals working in pediatric healthcare settings.

Keywords: Childhood stress; UAE; children nursing; nursing interventions; stress in healthcare settings.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Attitude*
  • Awareness
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Health Personnel / education
  • Humans
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Stress, Psychological / diagnosis
  • Stress, Psychological / prevention & control
  • Stress, Psychological / therapy*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United Arab Emirates