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From The Bedside: Parents as Part of the Pediatric Care Team

Monday, March 20, 2017
Kelly Hancock,DNP, RN, NE-BC

 Tap into their knowledge for the optimal care plan

Involving family in a patient’s plan of care is often beneficial, but this holds particularly true when those patients are children. “Parents have this wealth of information about their child that only they know,” says Rachel Thurman, BSN, RN, CPN, a pediatric nurse at Cleveland Clinic’s Solon Family Health Center. “They know little details about the child that you won’t find in the medical records, but can help us care for the child.”

A nurse for 17 years, Thurman has worked in both inpatient and ambulatory settings. She recently shared her thoughts on the importance of including parents in patient care in the Society of Pediatric Nurses’ members-only eNews.

Three keys to involving parents in patient care

Thurman has plenty of examples showing why it’s important to include parents as collaborators in patient care, just as you would include any member of the caregiving team. In February, when she was taking triage calls at the Solon Family Health Center, Thurman got a call from a mom who had just picked up her four-month-old from daycare. The mom said her son was crying – not his normal cry, but his ear infection cry. The boy didn’t have a fever or any other classic symptoms of ear infection. But Thurman listened to the mom and made an appointment for her son that evening.

“If I was going by the book, we would’ve waited a little longer to see him,” says Thurman. Tests revealed the patient did, indeed, have an ear infection. “It’s really important to listen to parents,” she says. “I wouldn’t know the baby’s hungry cry from his ear infection cry, but mom sure did.” The boy started treatment that night, rather than suffering through the classic medical symptoms before receiving medication.

Thurman says there are three keys to ensuring that parents are actively included in the decision-making process, not just informed about the plan of care once it’s been determined: “It’s about being a good listener, asking questions and building relationships, which are things almost every great nurse that I know does well,” she says.

Parental knowledge you can tap into

There are many areas where parents can offer invaluable insight that might benefit patient care, including the following:

  • Sleep patterns – Parents know their children’s bedtime, nap times and sleeping patterns. When parents share this information, caregivers can schedule medication delivery around those times, when possible, so the child gets optimal sleep.
  • Diet – Eating properly is a big component of healing. Thurman remembers a hospitalized patient of Middle Eastern descent who wasn’t eating the meals provided by food services because they were unfamiliar. The boy’s mother brought in his favorite chicken and rice dish, which he ate with zeal. During the remainder of his stay, the mom, aunts and his grandmother brought meals. The boy’s IV was soon removed, and he was discharged from the hospital.
  • Comfort methods – Parents know what songs, stuffed animals or cradling methods will soothe their children. They know that if their child’s favorite cartoon is Paw Patrol, then receiving a sticker of the main character Ryder after getting a shot will help the child more quickly forget the pain.

“It’s really important that we listen to parents,” says Thurman. “Ask the questions to get the next-level understanding of who the child is, not just in this moment medically but as a whole person.”

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Tags: patient engagement, best practices, nursing, integrative care, education, teamwork, family caregiver, children, parents
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