Children's and Young People's Experiences of Being in Hospital: Disruption, Uncertainty, Powerlessness and Restoring Equilibrium

Edwards, Maria E B (2009) Children's and Young People's Experiences of Being in Hospital: Disruption, Uncertainty, Powerlessness and Restoring Equilibrium. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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Whilst the Government has made explicit its stance towards identifying and taking into account the views of children and young people as service users it appears, within some hospital settings, that few openings are available to many children and young people, particularly those with learning or physical disabilities and acute illnesses.

This qualitative study used an ethnographic approach to explore 46 children and young people's experiences of being in hospital. Data were collected within the hospital setting through unstructured participatory observation and semi-structured interviews alongside a variety of
methods and activity based techniques. The data were collected and analysed concurrently in order to explore emerging themes in the analysis. The children and young people were diverse in terms of age ranges, experience of being in hospital and illness, with some being acutely ill and others having long term chronic illness.

The findings revealed that children and young people experienced disruption due to being in hospital. This was experienced as a complex variety of factors, situations and people impacting upon their experiences. Interwoven within this disruption were feelings of powerlessness and uncertainty. Children and young people described experiencing disruption, uncertainty and powerlessness in terms of being in hospital, being ill and undergoing treatment and experiences of care and caring. In order to reduce these experiences children and young people undertook a range of strategies and actions in an attempt to restore equilibrium including "influencing", "accepting", "acting" and "positivity". Within this study I bring together for the first time the ways in which being in hospital creates disruption for children and young people and their agency and capacity in mediating their resultant experiences of powerlessness and uncertainty. I also provide an explanation for the ways in which children and young people experience disruption and restore equilibrium by drawing on Bronfenbrenner's work.

The findings have implications for children's nursing in terms of quality and delivery of care for children and young people in hospital.

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