Parents' needs for physician-parent communication in the face of life-threatening illness: Qualitative analysis


Parents' needs for physician-parent communication in the face of life-threatening illness: Qualitative analysis


Janusz B; Walkiewicz M


Palliative Medicine in Practice




childhood disease; interpersonal communication; life threatening illness; parent; personal needs; physical disease; physician; adolescent; article; child; child death; child hospitalization; clinical article; female; health care system; hospice; human; infant; knowledge; law suit; male; malpractice; personal experience; preschool child; qualitative analysis; school child; semi structured interview


Introduction. Parents of a child diagnosed with a life-threatening illness often experience the state of cognitive and emotional disorganization. The key factor determining parents-physicians cooperation is the quality of their relations. That is why physicians should be familiar with conditions that may help or disturb parents to manage this extreme situation. Competent communication leads to more effective treatment as well as fewer medical malpractice claims and lawsuits filed against doctors. Material and methods. The aim of this paper is the description and analysis of the needs of 23 parents whose children were diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses that led to death. The deceased children were treated mainly in hospitals or in hospices. The study was conducted in the period of one up to four years following the death of a child. A semi-structured interview was constructed and used for the purpose of this research. The transcription was analysed according to the rules of Qualitative Content Analysis with applying NVivo 9 software. Results. The results have revealed five categories of parents' needs addressed to physicians: 1) a greater intensity of direct parent-physician contact; 2) experience of doctors' thorough knowledge about the child and their illness; 3) a greater doctors' involvement in the search for the causes of the disease and further treatment; 4) parents' established position in the healthcare system, especially when the treatment lasted for a long time 5) more clear information about the applied treatment and condition of the child. Conclusions. The research indicates that the challenge of communication with parents is not only clear information about the course of a disease, providing facts about functioning of the entire health care system and this is particularly important for the parents whose child has been undergoing a long-term treatment. A physician should emphasise the meaning of palliative care as an integrated system of support. Parents' decision-making about medical treatment on the early stage of an illness may cause too heavy strain to some of them.


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Janusz B; Walkiewicz M, “Parents' needs for physician-parent communication in the face of life-threatening illness: Qualitative analysis,” Pediatric Palliative Care Library, accessed February 25, 2024,