• children visiting;
  • hospital visiting policies;
  • critical care;
  • qualitative research;
  • intensive care;
  • family centred care;
  • nursing;
  • hospital chaplaincy;
  • social work;
  • health services evaluation

Children visiting family and friends on adult intensive care units: the nurses’ perspective

Recent surveys show that children are still restricted from visiting their critically ill family and friends on many adult intensive care units throughout the country. The purpose of this small-scale exploratory pilot study was to examine and describe the experiences and perceptions of trained nurses towards children visiting within this setting. The aim of the study was to gain greater insight and understanding into the reason why, despite evidence to support the benefits to children of visiting their critically ill family and friends, they remain discouraged and restricted. It is hoped that the study will act as an initial enquiry to generate themes and further research questions. A qualitative research approach was adopted and in-depth focused interviews used as a method of data collection. The participants of the study were trained nurses working on an adult intensive care unit in a District General Hospital in England. A total of 12 individual interviews were conducted which were audiotaped in full and analysed using a method of thematic content analysis. The value of the research is to promote family-centred care within an adult intensive care environment to meet the neglected needs of the well children of the critically ill person. The findings suggest that the participants in the study attempted to offer valuable support to children visiting their critically ill family and friends, but, despite an open visiting policy, children rarely visited within this setting. The desire of the well parent to protect and shield the child from the crisis of critical illness was perceived by the participants to be the main reason why they did not visit. To provide family-centred care within an adult intensive care setting has many implications for practice and several of these important issues are discussed. These include the educational and training needs of nursing staff and the importance of adopting a collaborative team approach to providing care for the critically ill person and their family. The need to generate research and literature from within the United Kingdom’s health care system has also been identified and recommendations for further studies are proposed.