How do parents fare when waiting for their kids in surgery?
Patients are often anxious while waiting for their children undergoing elective surgery, according to a recent Singapore study. Environmental improvements in the waiting area and more frequent updates may be helpful in easing their worries.
“These findings can guide the improvement of the current practise based on our evidence or the implementation of newer technology to provide better waiting experiences for parents during their children's surgeries and to enhance the quality of clients' experiences in the hospital,” said the researchers.
Eleven parents who, for the first time, waited through their children’s surgeries in a Singapore public hospital were administered a semi-structured, face-to-face interview. Majority (73 percent) were mothers and of Chinese ethnicity (82 percent). More than half of the children were boys (64 percent). [J Pediatr Nurs 2020;doi:10.1016/j.pedn.2020.01.004]
Parents noted that the level and type of care affected their waiting experiences. Prior to the surgery, parents received instructions that helped prepare them mentally. In these sessions, they received information about the procedure and were given the opportunity to ask questions and air concerns. Parents largely perceived the medical team as highly professional and experienced, which helped allay their fears.
Despite this, during the surgery, parents were unable to avoid worrying about the outcomes and potential complications of the procedure. This was especially pronounced in the cases of unfamiliar and nonroutine surgeries, and when operations had to be prolonged. There were also concerns about how the children would react to the general anaesthesia after the surgery.
Many attributed it to the intrinsic nature of parents to be anxious over their children. The researchers reported one parent as saying: “We waited… near outside the operation theatre… We don't want to go because our child is inside… She trusted me. I will be here. I promised her I will. I don't want to go…”
To deal with the anxiety, parents adopted a variety of coping strategies during the waiting period. Some went to nearby food courts to eat, while others opted to rest in the waiting areas. A support system, such as religion, their partners, or their families and friends, also proved helpful during waiting. Majority of the parents also sought distraction from their smart, handheld devices.
However, parents noted important gaps in the waiting experience and potential rooms for improvement. Four parents, for instance, noted that they were not given updates during the waiting period, particularly when the procedures had to be extended. They also reported not knowing who to approach and, in the case of one parent who did ask a nurse for updates, receiving poor information.
“Later, we were told that she was already in the recovery room for half an hour, and we weren't even told. So that was something that I thought was unpleasant,” one parent recounted.
Parents also named this as a potential area of improvement. “[T]his one is maybe to lessen the burden so they can update and can [say], ‘Oh, actually everything is quite okay.’ What is the progress, and then is it ending? I think this is what the people are feeling and looking forward to,” said one parent.
They also suggested improving the quality of the waiting rooms both to suit the parents’ needs and the possible use of mobile applications in disseminating important preoperative information.
“These findings have implications for future practice and research in the recommendations of a purposive waiting room, text message updates and mobile applications on surgical information,” the researchers said.