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A phenomenological study exploring pediatric hospitalization: The voices of accompanied and unaccompanied hospitalized children.

PURPOSE: Most children go through their childhood without being hospitalized. For a child, being hospitalized may be a disturbing and unfamiliar experience. Pediatric institutions promote parental presence and family-centered care, yet not all parents are able to stay with their children. Holding the child's voice central to the phenomenon, the aim of this study was to explore how parental accompaniment and absence shape a child's hospitalization experience.

DESIGN AND METHODS: A phenomenological study was implemented, and children ages 7-11 years old were included if they were in the hospital for at least 24 h with a parent present or 12 h without a parent present. Deriving from the interviews of children, themes were identified to unearth the meaning of children's lived experiences.

RESULTS: Twelve school-age children shared their hospitalization experiences. The findings of this study are organized around the following themes: (a) participating in care; (b) being on the road to recovery; (c) being a kid, still; (d) being accompanied - having a familiar face; and (e) being unaccompanied - yearning but understanding.

CONCLUSIONS: Being in the hospital was not significantly different when parents were absent, but children preferred their parents to stay. Being in the hospital was not a negative experience. Hospitalized children were attentive, independent, understanding, and resilient.

PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS: Children in this study illuminate the need to listen to children's voices. Understanding the experiences of hospitalized children provides pediatric nurses with insight on supporting the patients and families they care for.

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