• children;
  • chronic illness;
  • parent;
  • patient education;
  • qualitative study


Families having a child with a chronic disease face changes in their everyday lives, and the whole family is involved in patient education. Nurses bear a great responsibility for patient education, but their school-age patients’ and their parents’ perceptions of patient education have only been studied to a limited extent.


The current study aimed to explore the elements of significant patient education events during a hospital visit described by school-age children with a chronic illness and their parents.


The design was qualitative and descriptive. A total of nineteen Finnish parents and their 12 children aged 5–12, suffering from chronic diseases, were interviewed using a critical incident technique. The data were analysed by deductive content analysis.


The descriptions of patient education comprised cases with parents’ shock at the outset of the patient education sessions and cases with the outcome of these sessions, including an experience of empowerment or lack of it. The patient education practices were examined by determining nursing, didactic and interpersonal competences. Nursing competence involved illustrations of knowledge and the ability to care for children and families as well as knowledge of the disease and its management. Didactic competence comprised practical examples of knowledge of teaching and the ability to implement the education process. Interpersonal competence manifested itself in the ability to have a dialogue.


The findings show the importance of comprehensive patient education competence required of nurses giving education to families having children with chronic illnesses. This knowledge can be applied to promote nurses’ professional training and to develop patient education.