How Can I Deal with the Stressed Parents of Sick Children?

Rachel Lamb . 19/04/2017 · 3 Minute read

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Working in healthcare is difficult to say the least but add sick children into the mix and the whole job becomes much more stressful. Every Paediatric Doctor and Nurse has to face a patient's frightened, stressed parents at some point or another. So how do you deal with their emotional outbursts and demanding attitudes?

We've got a few suggestions that come directly from experienced Nurses...

Be Clear with Parents

They want answers and, often, you can’t provide them just yet. However, what you can do is provide as much information on your plan of care as possible. Sit down with parents and let them know what you intend to do to help their child to get better. Your shift may be very busy but even five minutes of your time will help put parents at ease.

Help Parents to Help You

You’re a very busy and important person when you’re doing your job; it’s hard to have eyes on every child in your care at every second of the day. One of the biggest stresses that parents experience when they have a sick child is the feeling of helplessness. They know they’re not capable of treating their child alone, but putting them entirely into your care is scary. After all, they hardly know you and have spent all of their time and energy growing and raising this child. 

Explain to parents what signs to look out for that may require your immediate attention. For example, accessory muscle use and head bobbing, which signals respiratory distress in infants. This will give parents a feeling of importance and purpose, and give you an extra pair of eyes on your patient.

Be Firm But Kind

Yes, it’s frustrating when a parent is constantly shouting at you for answers but do your best to remember that they don’t know what’s going to happen to their flesh and blood and that terrifies them. They will continue to demand answers until they get them – why? Because that’s all they can do for now.

Firmly (but not angrily) tell the parents that their child is sick and you are going to take very good care of them so they can take them home as soon as possible. Explain that in the meantime, they need to remain patient whilst you do what needs to be done in order to help the child. Avoid showing your frustration to the parent wherever possible.

Give Yourself a Break

There will always be parents that refuse to calm down no matter what you do or say to them. When a child is sick, their parents will be overwhelmingly anxious about their child’s health, but the parents’ wellbeing is not your primary concern. Your duty of care belongs with the patient; eventually the parents will see that you are doing everything you can, even if it takes some screaming and shouting first.

To find out more about Your World Healthcare's Paediatric Nursing jobs, click here or call the team on 020 7220 0825. 

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