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J Holist Nurs. 2012 Jun;30(2):117-26. doi: 10.1177/0898010111423422. Epub 2011 Oct 24.

Unaccompanied hospitalized children: nurses' search for understanding.

Author information

  • 1University of Missouri-Kansas City, 2464 Charlotte Street, Kansas City, MO 64108, USA. robertscris@umkc.edu



To explore the experiences and feelings of pediatric nurses who care for hospitalized children that are unaccompanied by their parents.


This phenomenological study consisted of interviews with 12 pediatric nurses. Verbatim transcriptions were reviewed with participants and analyzed.


Pediatric nurses viewed the circumstances of unaccompanied hospitalized children through the perspective of their own life-worlds. They used both cognitive and emotional constructs to describe the phenomenon. Nurses' perceptions were affected by day-to-day contingencies of their life worlds which come through the four dimensions of space, mind/body, time, and relationships. These perceptions affected their assessment of parents' situated contexts. Nurses' assessments could lead to negative judgments of parents because they worried about ill effects on the unaccompanied children. Meanwhile,nurses often perceived that parents demonstrated trust when they relegated their child's care to them.


Pediatric nurses dealt with increased emotional work while remaining compassionate with their patients. Nurses indicated that they needed to understand their own life-worlds and that parents' day-to-day contingencies may affect parents' ability to remain with their hospitalized children. Participants were aware of judgmental attitudes which could interfere with the development of therapeutic relationships with parents, and therefore, with hospitalized children.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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