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Keywords:

  • children visiting;
  • intensive care nursing;
  • intensive care unit policies;
  • nurses;
  • nursing;
  • parents’ experiences;
  • visiting intensive care unit

Aims and objectives.  To describe custodians’ experiences of their child's visit to an ill/injured nearest being cared for at an adult intensive care unit (ICU), their thoughts about the visit in relation to the child's health/well being and who initiated the visit.

Background.  Custodians can feel undecided about whether to allow their children to visit the ICU or not. They wonder how important it is for the child to visit, as well as the consequences, and attempt to protect the child from information/experiences that could provoke anxiety or threaten the child's health.

Design.  Quantitative and descriptive.

Method.  Thirty custodians answered a questionnaire.

Results.  It was mainly custodians and their children and not staff who initiated the children's visits. Many children were not informed by staff and the responsibility lay instead with the custodians. The importance of giving children adequate information before, during and after the visit was pointed out. The custodians reported that their child's reactions to the visit differed, i.e. reactions reflecting happiness but also sadness; the visit was good for the child, increased awareness of the nearest's condition and appreciation of the hospital staff and their work; if the visit did not take place the child would be left with thoughts and conjectures; their children were not frightened when they saw the equipment and instead they became curious; older children were more focused on the patient while younger children were interested in both the equipment and the patient. Many children asked questions/made comments during the visit. Many custodians were of the opinion that visiting is not a risk to future health and well being.

Conclusions.  This issue must be addressed and discussed and strategies need to be developed to improve the nurses’ obligation to involve visiting children in the care that is/should be provided to a member of the patient's family.

Relevance to clinical practice.  Nurses need to take more initiative when discussing children's visits with the custodians. Nurses also need to discuss how to meet, inform, support and care for visiting children and their custodians in relation to health and well being. Recommendations/guidelines about children visiting that take both the patient's and child's needs into consideration needs to be developed based on scientific knowledge. Findings from this study may draw attention to children visiting ICUs and encourage nurses to discuss children visiting with custodians and to develop family-centred care at the ICU that includes children.