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The evolution of children’s nursing

Popular terms in children’s nursing now, such as family-centred care and consumer involvement, weren't always so widely accepted. The idea of sharing care with guardians or relatives was once an extremely radical notion.

That’s according to Philip Darbyshire, Flinders University and Monash University professor and owner of Philip Darbyshire Consulting, whose book focusing on children's hospitalisation – originally printed about 20 years ago – has now been released online.

Darbyshire said the associated change was quite dramatic in many ways. “It took a long time, but it was a dramatic shift ... Back in the early 1980s, even before that, in the late '60s and '70s, children's hospitals, like adult hospitals at the time, were notoriously anti-family friendly. It was very clear that hospitals were not places that parents or relatives were welcome in.”

He added that the impact these concepts had on nurses’ roles and practices fascinated him, and led to its place in the book, titled Living With a Sick Child in Hospital, now available as a free eBook.

“[At the time, this opened] up a whole new dimension to nursing, one where you were not basically nursing on your own and occasionally had a visitor who was a relative. Now, you were nursing in partnership with people,” Darbyshire said. “You had to plan care with them, describe what was going on to them, seek their help in carrying out particular care practices, get them involved in what was happening.”

He said that while many nurses took to this immediately and felt they were gaining something, for others it was a long struggle, as they felt they were giving something up. "It was a big mindset shift for people," he explained.

Darbyshire thought it would be great to get the book detailing these notions out for another generation of children’s nurses.

“I think it did have a positive influence when it came out because … not many people had looked at this and described that world of parents and nurses and how those changes in practice had been happening.”

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