The Role of the Family in Pediatric Healthcare
Parents and families make choices at home every day that affect children’s overall health. Some are as common as encouraging exercise and serving nutritious meals. However, families also play a vital role in the health of their children when medical attention is needed. From properly sharing a child’s medical history to reassuring the child during dreaded procedures, involved families boost pediatric healthcare outcomes. And, when pediatric nurses and doctors give the family choices and include them in the decision-making process, they create a better environment for the child’s healing and recovery.
Here are three primary roles that families play in children’s healthcare.
When a child is sick or injured, the family’s primary concern is getting the best possible treatment. In seeking medical attention, family members ask questions of pediatric nurse practitioners and other staff and may seek several professional opinions to better understand their child’s condition and what steps must be taken. In this way, families are front and center in advocating for quality care. They also help identify deficiencies in health services, and their feedback in quality measurement surveys can lead to positive changes.1
Parents and family members know their child’s medical history better than anyone, so they are important sources of information. Instead of only consulting responses on a medical history chart, pediatric healthcare professionals encourage communication during all phases of pediatric care. The family shares other relevant details—such as sleep patterns, diet, and what comforts the child—that inform treatment. As key decision-makers in the child’s life, family members should be partners in developing the child’s care plan.2
Likewise, the medical staff openly communicates with family members about procedures and answers questions as they arise.
No matter how gentle and child-focused pediatric nurse practitioners are, nothing brings more comfort when a child is hurting or stressed than having family nearby. In family-centered care, the family is allowed to be with the child as much as possible. They may incorporate personally meaningful activities and familiar routines into the treatment plan.
Allowing family to be present during medical procedures lowers both the child’s and the family’s anxiety levels and restores feelings of security and stability. It also helps family members understand the medical procedures more fully and reduces their uncertainty. When the family is more relaxed and confident, the child will be, too.3
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