Readmission drivers for children with medical complexity: Home nursing shortages cause health crises

Pediatr Pulmonol. 2020 Jun;55(6):1474-1480. doi: 10.1002/ppul.24744. Epub 2020 Mar 25.


Objective: Children with medical technology dependence (MTD) are frequently readmitted to the hospital. However, due to their medical fragility, it is often difficult to untangle the root causes for readmissions to identify the most effective preventive approaches. We sought to explore environmental and family factors driving hospital readmissions for children with MTD.

Design: Semi-structured, in-person interviews were conducted with state-wide care coordinators for children with MTD in Illinois with at least 1 year of experience. Interview topics related to children with MTD transitioning from hospital-to-home, essential supports for living in the community, and factors which influenced and prevented hospital readmission. The interview guide served as an initial codebook which was iteratively modified as themes emerged.

Results: Fifteen care coordinators with on average 6.6 years of experience were interviewed. They described that lack of home nursing was one of the primary drivers of readmissions due to parental exhaustion and lack of medical expertize in the home. Unavoidable medical admissions, a lack of a plan for emergencies, and home environmental factors also contributed to readmissions.

Conclusion: Hospital readmission is an expected occurrence for children with MTD, yet still may be substantially reduced through consistent, quality home health nursing to bolster family capacity and allow for respite from constant caregiving. Improved incentives for the home health workforce to increase manpower would be ultimately offset by reduced hospitalizations for children with MTD. Additionally, more research is needed to understand which home nursing structures and skills optimally support families in the reality of manpower scarcity.

Keywords: bronchopulmonary dysplasia; children with medical complexity; home healthcare; mechanical ventilation; noninvasive ventilation; private duty nursing; readmissions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Female
  • Home Nursing / statistics & numerical data*
  • Hospitals
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Readmission / statistics & numerical data*