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Protecting, providing, and participating: fathers' roles during their child's unplanned hospital stay, an ethnographic study


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To gain an increased understanding of fathers' experiences during their child's stay in hospital as an unplanned admission for acute illness or injury.


Family-centred care is promoted in children's nursing as providing high quality care but internationally, research has in the main focused on mothers whilst fathers' contribution to care remains relatively under explored.


A qualitative field study.


The study was conducted from August 2009–December 2010 involving 150 hours of ethnographic observation on two children's wards and interviews with 12 fathers and seven qualified children's nurses.


Fathers wanted to be with their sick child in hospital and made essential contributions to the whole family's experience. Three aspects of the fathers role in caring for their sick child in hospital were identified which included: protecting, providing for the family, and participating in care.


Fathers, no less than mothers, want to be with and care for their sick child in hospital, yet they face challenges in doing so. The working practices of children's nurses and other healthcare professionals must take into account that fathers play a significant role in caring for their sick child in hospital but may do this alongside paid work and caring for well siblings.

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