Understanding roles and relationships in the care of ill children: A systemic analysis

Down, Gwynneth (2007) Understanding roles and relationships in the care of ill children: A systemic analysis. DSysPsych thesis, Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust.

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There is growing evidence that the way patients and families relate to healthcare professionals influences their experience of illness and healthcare, and may affect their psychological and physical wellbeing. Relationships between professional groups may also have a significant impact on healthcare provision to children and families. Previous research has focused on dyadic relationships within paediatric healthcare (mother and child, nurse and parents, doctors and nurses), but little has been published concerning the complex inter-relationships and roles of family members, doctors and nurses. The aim of this research was to undertake a systemic analysis of the roles and relationships of nurses and doctors with children, adolescents and families. A qualitative methodology was used to explore how the three groups (nurses, doctors and families) understand their respective roles and relationships in the care of ill children within a tertiary paediatric hospital. While systemic and social constructionist theory informed the overall conception of the study, grounded theory was the method used for structuring data collection and analysis. Data collection involved semi-structured interviews with doctors, nurses and families. These were audio-taped and each set of transcripts analysed according to grounded theory principles. Theoretical coding then allowed comparisons to be made across each set of data. Two theoretical categories describing key processes involved in the care of ill children emerged from the analysis. These were: “Building emotional connections and focusing on medical goals: complementary or contradictory relationship discourses for families and staff?” and “Shifting relationships around expertise and power: the gains and losses associated with new positionings” The first category highlights that both professionals and families appear to draw on particular societal discourses to inform their roles and relationships. These discourses (about the therapeutic value of emotional connections between staff and families and the need for ‘medical professionalism’) can appear at odds with each other. creating tensions and dilemmas for each group. The second theoretical category highlights that power relationships between nurses, doctors and families are in a process of change. Fundamental change may be hard to achieve however, as each group may experience losses and well as gains in their emerging positions. It is further argued that changes in government policy relating to these core processes creates challenges for each participant group as they struggle to balance positive working relationships, the medical care of the child and status and power issues. Change in any one aspect of these professional and family roles and relationships may have both adverse and beneficial effects, which need to be recognised. These findings raise important questions about the feasibility and desirability of family centred care. The implications of this research for training, consultation and future research are explored. The research adds to a small but growing body of literature focusing on the interface between professionals, patients and families in healthcare settings.

Item Type: Thesis (DSysPsych)
Additional Information: A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the University of East London in collaboration with the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust for the Professional Doctorate in Systemic Psychotherapy
Uncontrolled Keywords: Professional Doctorate in Systemic Psychotherapy, Physical Illness, Systemic Analysis
Subjects: Groups & Organisations > Occupational Groups
Health and Medical Sciences > National Health Service
Health and Medical Sciences > Patient Care
Research, Tests, Assessments > Assessment/Interviews
Department/People: Children, Young Adult and Family Services
URI: https://repository.tavistockandportman.ac.uk/id/eprint/1542

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