Nurses' perception of readiness to care for parents of children with special healthcare needs

Published:November 22, 2022DOI:


      • It is known that parents have a difficult time caring for a child with special healthcare needs in the home
      • It is reported that little time is spent preparing and evaluating parents' readiness for discharge
      • Nurses perceive parents to be underprepared on financial, psychological, and emotionaldomains.
      • Practice and policy implications related to discharge preparation may improve parent readiness to care once home



      To describe pediatric nurses' perception of readiness to care for parents of children with special healthcare needs.

      Design and Methods

      This cross-sectional, exploratory study surveyed 56 pediatric nurses from a large tertiary care center in Appalachia. Participants completed an anonymous electronic survey aimed at evaluating perception of discharge preparation and readiness to care. Data analysis included descriptive statistics and Chi square comparisons.


      The majority of participants (80%) reported spending 12 h or less preparing parents for discharge. The domains rated lowest on readiness to care included financial, psychological, and emotional. Participants anticipate parents spending an average of 13.9 h a day serving as the child's primary caregiver in the home.


      Subjective, ‘unseen’ domains of readiness are often under-assessed and evaluated. Parents are often discharged with limited preparation to assume around-the-clock care for a child with special healthcare needs, specifically related to their holistic health and wellbeing.

      Practice Implications

      Standardization of discharge preparation and readiness evaluation should focus on overall parent preparedness, including financial, psychological, and emotional domains. Discharge preparation should begin at the time of admission to familiarize parents with care. Clear, frequent communication should be used to emphasize realistic expectations and assess unique needs. Provision of accessible community-based resources should be given early to better equip parents with supportive services once home.


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