Original Research

Caregiver Perspectives on Communication During Hospitalization at an Academic Pediatric Institution: A Qualitative Study

Abstract

OBJECTIVE: Communication among those involved in a child’s care during hospitalization can mitigate or exacerbate family stress and confusion. As part of a broader qualitative study, we present an in-depth understanding of communication issues experienced by families during their child’s hospitalization and during the transition to home.

METHODS: Focus groups and individual interviews stratified by socioeconomic status included caregivers of children recently discharged from a children’s hospital after acute illnesses. An open-ended, semistructured question guide designed by investigators included communication-related questions addressing information shared with families from the medical team about discharge, diagnoses, instructions, and care plans. By using an inductive thematic analysis, 4 investigators coded transcripts and resolved differences through consensus.

RESULTS: A total of 61 caregivers across 11 focus groups and 4 individual interviews participated. Participants were 87% female and 46% non-white. Analyses resulted in 3 communication-related themes. The first theme detailed experiences affecting caregiver perceptions of communication between the inpatient medical team and families. The second revealed communication challenges related to the teaching hospital environment, including confusing messages associated with large multidisciplinary teams, aspects of family-centered rounds, and confusion about medical team member roles. The third reflected caregivers’ perceptions of communication between providers in and out of the hospital, including types of communication caregivers observed or believed occurred between medical providers.

CONCLUSIONS: Participating caregivers identified various communication concerns and challenges during their child’s hospitalization and transition home. Caregiver perspectives can inform strategies to improve experiences, ease challenges inherent to a teaching hospital, and determine which types of communication are most effective.

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