Observational Study of Family Member Presence for Pediatric Emergency Department Procedures

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The aim of this study was to observe the proportion of family members who choose to remain present during children’s pediatric emergency department procedures in actual clinical situations.


Family members of a convenience sample of children undergoing invasive procedures in a pediatric emergency department were observed. Data were collected on whether family members chose to remain present or leave during the procedure and family member and health care worker behaviors. Consent to participate in the study was obtained after the observation, and family members were surveyed regarding demographics, anxiety, and previous experiences.


Fifty-nine children undergoing 66 procedures and accompanied by 83 family members were enrolled. The median age of the children was 69 months; 47% were female and 73% were Hispanic. The family members consisted of 64% mothers and 24% fathers, with a median age of 33 years. The most common procedures were vascular access (25), laceration repair (11), and urethral catheterization (9). Overall, 73% of the family members stayed during the child’s procedure, 18% left, and 9% showed some mixture of staying and leaving. Health care workers asked the family members to leave twice, encouraged them to leave once, and used nonverbal cues to exclude the family members twice. Caregivers helped to restrain the child 35% of the time.


Family members remain present during actual children’s emergency department procedures less often than they indicate they would in hypothetical scenario surveys.

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