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Comparing parents' and nurses' identification and prioritization of parental needs in the context of caring for children with chronic conditions Graves, Carolyn Mary


Accurate assessment is the foundation on which effective nursing interventions rest. However, it is not known how accurately nurses identify and prioritize the needs of parents whose children have chronic conditions. When nurses proceed with interventions based on inaccurate assessments, the results can be unsuccessful interventions that neither meet parental needs nor provide optimal health care for this population of children. This descriptive comparative study was conducted to 1) examine parental needs identified and prioritized by parents of children with chronic conditions and their respective nurse care-givers, and 2) identify similarities and differences between the two groups. Patterns that evolved from these similarities and differences provide us with information related to where nurses have expertise or difficulty identifying and prioritizing the needs of parents. Kleinman's (1978) health care systems theory, which supports the premise that health care professionals and clients perceive health care episodes differently, provided the conceptual framework for this study. Study participants included 38 parents and 13 nurses who were affiliated with ten ambulatory programs in a Western Canadian pediatric hospital. Both groups completed the modified Family Needs Survey (Bailey & Simeonsson, 1988b) and socio-demographic tool developed by this investigator. Responses to the 35-item scale of the Family Needs Survey were described and ranked, in addition to being analyzed using inferential parametric statistics to determine differences between parents' and nurses' identification of parental needs. Responses to the open-ended question on the Survey were described and ranked. Research findings revealed some similarities and a number of striking differences between the responses of parents and nurses. On the 35-item scale, parents and nurses agreed that five parental needs were 1) information about current research, future services and treatments, 2) help locating competent regular or respite care providers, 3) reading material about other parents with a similar child, 4) opportunity to meet and talk with other parents, with a similar child, and 5) more time for self, spouse and other children. Both groups were consistent in their ranking of the first two needs as the most important needs in the information and community services subscales, respectively. However, nurses had generally higher responses on all subscales and identified eight more parental needs than did parents which were related to information, support, and family functioning. Parents and nurses repeated most of the above needs on the open-ended question, although nurses indicated that parents also had a number of needs related to psychosocial issues and family functioning. Nurses ranked counselling (child's condition, treatment, stress management) as the primary support need. Further, both groups differed in their prioritization of parental needs on the open-ended question. Where parents ranked information, community services, and support needs as the most important, nurses ranked support, information, and community services. The implications of these research findings for nursing practice and education are discussed and recommendations for future research are presented.

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