An increasing number of infants and children suffer from respiratory and neuromuscular diseases that render them ventilator-dependent. These patients spend months in pediatric intensive care units (PICUs) until they are either extubated or are stable enough to tolerate home ventilation. The critical nature of the PICU and its emphasis on meeting short-term goals is not readily compatible with the long-term and dynamic needs of developing children. In order to prevent the delays in growth and development that often occur during prolonged hospitalizations, this article addresses the impediments to normal growth and development in the PICU and offers specific suggestions on how the environment and nursing care can be changed to support the development of ventilator-dependent children and their families

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