Whether you’re precepting new nurses embarking on the first job of their career, or helping experienced nurses transition into a new role, educating nursing professionals about pediatrics best practices is an ongoing endeavor.
While the fundamentals of care are mostly the same across all patients regardless of age, there are several elements that make pediatric nursing unique.
“Dealing with children requires excellent communication skills and a high degree of patience,” says Scrubs Magazine. “A child will often have difficulty telling somebody exactly how they are feeling and won’t know how to communicate information that is considered valuable to any health practitioner.”
It often takes time and practice before nurses fully recognize how to provide the best experience for pediatric patients. To ensure you’re always driving the best outcomes within your organization, here are three elements to focus on when educating nurses about pediatric healthcare:
Empathy Training and Conflict Resolution
Most nurses recognize their profession requires a significant amount of interaction with family members and other loved ones. Fielding questions and working while strangers watch over your shoulder comes with the territory. But, when it comes to pediatrics, families are usually much more involved.
Anxious parents could not only overwhelm staff with questions, but they may become upset or confrontational at times, too. When a parent’s child is sick or injured, emotions run high, and either the parents or child may direct their anger and frustration toward you and your staff. It’s crucial pediatric nurses understand how to defuse arguments tactfully. That’s when conflict resolution and empathy training can come in handy.
Having compassion for patients and their loved ones is a crucial part of any healthcare role. When you’re busy and under pressure, outwardly displaying empathy isn’t always easy. Teaching nurses to use empathy statements like, “I understand why you’re upset” or “I would feel the same way in your position,” can help alleviate tension between parents and staff while showing upset loved ones that your team cares.
Patient Comfort and Distraction Techniques
Ensuring patients are comfortable and assuaging their fears and anxieties is critical across all age brackets. As a nurse, the majority of a patient’s experience rests on your capable shoulders.
Pediatric patient comfort has a few additional layers that nurses who are used to caring for adults may not be prepared to handle.
For one, your staff may be working with children who have never been in a hospital environment and may be especially fearful — or become hysterical. Even when children recognize you and your staff are there to help them, they may still feel afraid and be uncooperative. Because it’s not always easy to convince young children to cooperate, distraction is a useful tool.
Check out this list of pediatric distraction methods you should discuss with your team.
How to Deliver Age-Appropriate Reasoning and Explanations
When nurses work primarily with adult patients, they usually grow accustomed to discussing procedures and care plans in a way that’s straightforward and matter-of-fact. But when working with children spanning infancy to late-teens, you have to tailor your explanations to an age-appropriate level.
For example, while you might use the same topical anesthetic on a small child and a teenager before an immunization, your explanation of the procedure would likely be very different.
Much of this depends on a child’s cognitive development phase, hospital experience and their illness or injury. It’s essential your staff recognizes how to customize experiences for each child based on these criteria.
As nurses are getting accustomed to working with patients of various ages, it’s helpful to set up best practices and reasoning strategies for each age group.
Because the world of pediatric healthcare is always evolving, it’s a good idea to continue educating nurses about pediatrics beyond the initial onboarding and hold refresher training sessions throughout the year. No matter where your nursing staff is in their careers, there’s always room to grow and improve.