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Child in hospital: family experiences and expectations of how nurses can promote family health


  • Hanna Hopia MNSc, RN,

  • Patricia S Tomlinson PhD, RN,

  • Eija Paavilainen PhD, RN,

  • Päivi Åstedt-Kurki PhD, RN

Hanna Hopia
Pyssymiehenkatu 49
40630 Jyväskylä
Telephone: + 358 14 254 754


Aims and objectives.  This study set out to explore, from the family's point of view, ways in which nursing staff can promote family health during the child's hospital stay.

Background.  Having a child in hospital is a major source of stress and anxiety for the whole family. Earlier studies have described parental coping strategies, ways to strengthen those strategies and to support parental participation in child care, but no one has studied the promotion of family health during the child's hospitalization from the family's point of view.

Design.  Interviews were conducted in 2002 with 29 families who had a child with a chronic illness which were receiving or had received treatment on the paediatric wards of two Finnish hospitals.

Methods.  Data analysis was based on the grounded theory method, proceeding to the stage of axial coding. Data collection and analysis phases proceeded simultaneously.

Results.  Five domains were distinguished in the promotion of family health: (1) reinforcing parenthood, (2) looking after the child's welfare, (3) sharing the emotional burden, (4) supporting everyday coping and (5) creating a confidential care relationship.

Conclusions.  The results strengthen the knowledge base of family nursing by showing how nursing staff can promote family health during the child's hospital stay.

Relevance to clinical practice.  The results have a number of practical applications for nursing, both for clinical practice and research. The results can be used in paediatric hospital wards caring for chronically ill children and their families. The five domains of family health promotion described here should be tested in other paediatric wards and in other geographical locations.