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J Pediatr Nurs. 2006 Feb;21(1):13-22.

Pediatric anxiety: child life intervention in day surgery.

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Department of Same Day Surgery, Texas Children's Hospital, Houston, TX 77030, USA.


Although many hospitals offer a surgical preparation program to children and families, minimal research has been conducted specifically on preparation by child life specialists. The purpose of this double-blind intervention study was to determine if children prepared for day surgery by a child life specialist exhibited less anxiety than those who received routine standard of care. One hundred forty-two children, aged between 5 and 11 years old, undergoing elective otolaryngology surgery completed the study. The "Child Drawing: Hospital" instrument developed by Clatworthy, Simon, and Tiedeman [Clatworthy, S., Simon, K., & Tiedeman, M. E. (1999). Child Drawing: Hospital - An instrument designed to measure the emotional status of hospitalized school-aged children. Journal of Pediatric Nursing, 14, 2-9] was used to determine children's anxiety levels preintervention and postintervention. Eighty children received formal preparation for their surgeries by a child life specialist and 62 received no intervention. The data were analyzed using a repeated-measures model with intervention, age, sex, and level of surgery for main effects. The anxiety score change was significantly better for the patients in the child life intervention group than for those in the nonintervention group, F(1,135) = 4.24, p = .04. The increase in anxiety scores in the nonintervention group suggests that children could benefit from preoperative preparation. Health professionals, including nurses, may impact children's abilities to cope with a surgical process. The information in this study will be useful in deciding whether all children, not just those with a perceived need, should be prepared prior to an elective day surgery.

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