Background The death of a parent in childhood is one of the most profound losses a child will ever experience. Supporting children whose parents are terminally ill is therefore an emotive topic. Much research states that if the needs of the child are not met, there can be immediate and long terms problems such as delinquency.
A major driver for this study came from children talking at a child bereavement group telling me they had overheard conversations about their parent’ condition, but because they had not been told directly they felt they could not voice their worries.
Aim To explore community palliative care clinical nurse specialists (CPCCNS) experience of supporting families with children.
Methods Using a phenomenological approach, a purposeful sample of eight CPCCNS’ were interviewed. Interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim. Using Colazzi’s analysis, themes were identified.
Results The themes were:
Not their role
Greater time in role increased confidence in ability
Acknowledgement of importance of support
Age, culture and religious differences
Referrals to other healthcare professionals and charities
Parallels in CPCCNS own life seemed to aid empathy
Conclusion Care of the ‘whole’ family is central to the WHO (2011) definition of palliative care. CPCCNS’ are in a prime position to support children at their most vulnerable, otherwise a delay may mean the child remains unsupported and there is a greater risk of issues during parents illness and following bereavement. This study highlights the role of the CPCCNS’ using data and narrative from interviews.
Implications for hospice practice Adequate support and training is essential in providing CPCCNS’ with the tools to support children of dying parents so they can feel able and more confident in this area of support.
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