Survival following pediatric heart transplantation (HTx) continues to improve. The transition from pediatric to adult care is becoming a pivotal stage in the ongoing medical management of this population. Published data support enhanced outcomes for adolescent patients with increased attention to transitional care. The purpose of this study was to explore the ‘transition experience’ of adolescent HTx recipients and families.
All teens (12–18 years) and parents at a single-center HTx program were invited to participate in semistructured interviews. Qualitative, phenomenological methodology was used to build theoretical knowledge and guided the data collection and analysis. The study population included 14 patients (7 males) with a mean age of 15.7 ± 1.8 years (11.7–17.8 years) and at a mean of 4.1 ± 3.3 years post-HTx (0.3–9.2 years) at the time of study participation. Major themes identified included: (i) adolescent disinterest and apathy regarding transition to adult care versus parental anxiety about their child's eventual departure from the pediatric transplant center, (ii) perceived differences in pediatric versus adult care and (iii) identification of strategies described as helpful in facilitating the transition. Understanding the experiences and perceptions of adolescent HTx recipients and their parents is crucial to planning effective transitional care and necessary for evidenced-based practice.