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Keywords:

  • leukaemia;
  • psychosocial;
  • paediatric;
  • medical play;
  • preschool

Summary

When young people enter a hospital they are exposed to a foreign world of unfamiliar people, medical equipment and language. Children diagnosed with leukaemia are particularly vulnerable to repeated exposure to these distressing hospital visits. Assessing a child's understanding of the stresses associated with treatment during hospitalization is now seen as a key element of caring for the paediatric patient. A population particularly vulnerable to the effects of the stress of intensive treatments during hospitalization are preschool children. In order to understand the impact on leukaemia preschool children of intensive hospital treatment it is necessary to have comparative information on healthy peers who have not been exposed to such treatment experiences. This article presents findings from recent qualitative research that explored the beliefs held by healthy preschoolers about what happens in hospital, what it means to be sick, their reactions to and knowledge of medical equipment and their level of knowledge regarding cancer and leukaemia. It is the hope and expectation that the findings will be used comparatively to contribute to a deeper understanding of the world of the child coping with leukaemia and related disorders.