• children;
  • hermeneutics;
  • hospital visiting;
  • intensive care unit;
  • interviews;
  • nursing


Title. Children’s experiences of visiting a seriously ill/injured relative on an adult intensive care unit

Aim.  This paper is a report of a study of children’s experiences of visiting a seriously ill/injured relative in an intensive care unit.

Background.  Little attention has been paid to children’s experiences and needs when visiting a relative being cared for at a high technological adult intensive care unit. Instead, the focus has been on adult’s experiences and needs.

Method.  In 2004, 28 children (14 girls, 14 boys) aged 4–17 years who had visited an adult relative were interviewed 3 months after the visit. A hermeneutic approach was used when interpreting and analysing the text.

Findings.  Four themes were generated from the data: It meant waiting, It was strange, It was white and It was good. Waiting was experienced as difficult, increasing the feeling of uncertainty, exclusion and separation, which in turn led to tension and concern. ‘It was strange’ was perceived as unfamiliar but also with interest and curiosity. The experience of the intensive care unit was that it was white. Everything in the patient’s room was experienced as white and gloomy. It lacked joy. ‘It was good’ was stated about the outcome of the visit because through this they were given the opportunity to meet and see the relative by themselves. This evoked feelings of relief and joy. The visit did not seem to frighten the child; instead it generated feelings of release and relief.

Conclusion.  Children’s experiences of visiting an adult intensive care unit seem to support theories that emphasize the involvement and participation of children in family matters.