Should I stay or should I go? Parental struggles when witnessing resuscitative measures on another child in the pediatric intensive care unit*

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Abstract

Objective:

The aim of this study was to examine the experiences of parents encountering the critical deterioration and resuscitative care of other children in the pediatric intensive care unit where their own child was admitted.

Design:

Grounded theory qualitative methodology.

Setting:

Pediatric intensive care unit of a pediatric tertiary care center in Montreal, Canada.

Subjects:

Ten parents of critically ill children who witnessed resuscitative measures on another child.

Interventions:

None.

Measurements and Main Results:

Semistructured interviews were conducted. While witnessing resuscitation, parents struggled with “Should I stay or should I go?” Their decision depended on specific contributing factors that were intrinsic to parents (curiosity or apprehension, the child's sake, trust or distrust) or extrinsic (limited space). These parents were not “spectators.” Despite using coping strategies, the experiences were distressing in the majority of cases, although sometimes comforting. The impact on witnessing critical events had divergent effects on parental trust with healthcare professionals.

Conclusions:

Pediatric intensive care unit teams have to be attentive to the benefits and burdens for parents to be present when resuscitative measures are required for another child to arrange for the provision of psychosocial support by pediatric intensive care unit physicians, nurses, and/or psychosocial consultants.

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