Provision of developmentally appropriate support for child visitors in adult intensive care units (ICUs) would benefit patients and young visitors. Research on best practices for child visitation in adult ICUs is limited.
To explore the perceptions and practices of nurses working in adult ICUs in the United States regarding child visitation and the role of child life specialists in this setting.
Data were collected from 446 adult ICU nurses via a cross-sectional survey. The survey explored perceptions and practices regarding child visitation, access to child-friendly resources, and the feasibility of having a child life specialist in adult ICUs.
Several participants (303, 67.9%) felt that children were at risk for psychological trauma from visiting an adult ICU. Some participants (122, 27.4%) reported that their ICUs did not have policies for child visitation. Logistic regression showed that nurses with a master’s degree were 1.8 times (P < .05) more likely to believe that young children (0-5 years) should visit. Nurses (105 of 197, 53.3%) were more likely to allow young children to visit if the patient was the child’s parent or if the patient was dying. Child-friendly resources were not routinely available. Nurses expressed that adult ICUs could benefit from child life specialists facilitating child visitation.
Nurses were inconsistently open to child visitation. Exceptions for older children (> 6 years), children whose parent was the patient, patients’ illness severity, and end of life allowed more child visitation. Ways to facilitate child-friendly visitation in adult ICUs are discussed.