Living with a chronic illness is difficult no matter your age, but it can be particularly hard for pediatric patients. Without appropriate coping skills, they may fail to comply with their treatment plan (either deliberately or unintentionally), which can result in more frequent hospitalizations and avoidable complications.
Here are a few ways your nursing staff can help pediatric patients cope with chronic illness.
1. Listen to Their Concerns
Children don’t always feel comfortable expressing their fears, particularly if they’re overwhelmed or intimidated by the hospital experience. Developing a rapport with pediatric patients and asking open-ended questions can give insight into how you can ease their anxiety.
2. Provide Practical Strategies
While we encourage children to always be themselves, it’s also important for their personal development to be part of their peer group. However, fitting in can be particularly difficult when a child has a chronic illness, especially if he or she looks different or has dietary or activity restrictions.
Advising children on ways to draw less attention to themselves when they are taking care of their medical condition can help them feel less like an outsider. For example, a teenager with asthma may be more comfortable managing his condition if he can use an asthma management app, such as AsthmaSense or AsthmaMD. Instead of putting his asthma in the spotlight, his friends will likely assume he’s just texting or playing a game, and he can track his medications and triggers without embarrassment.
3. Encourage Participation in Treatment and Care
Even the youngest patient can benefit from being involved in age-appropriate care decisions, such as choosing the flavor of an oral medication. Older children and teens can also make treatment decisions in conjunction with their parents, which may help their confidence by allowing them to feel more in control of their illnesses, instead of the other way around.
4. Develop a Partnership with Their Family
You won’t be with your patients 24/7, so be sure to provide your patients’ family with the clinical information they need to be the support your patient’s needs when you aren’t there. Everybody benefits when families actively take part in their child’s care. One study discovered children aged 10 to 15 who had diabetes had better adherence and metabolic control when they established collaborative relationships with their mothers.
Having a chronic illness can be exhausting, and your patients and their families will appreciate each measure you take to help make their lives a little easier. Being available to address the concerns they have for life both inside and outside of the hospital and offering advice can help them feel confident about coping with a chronic illness.
Want even more advice about helping pediatric hospital patients? Download our free guide, Young, Sick and Scared: How You Can Improve Pediatric Patient Comfort.