Nurses and parents have different perceptions about what aspects of the pediatric ICU are stressful and which interventions are helpful. The author describes the most common needs and stressors of parents in the pediatric ICU and the interventions that may decrease stress.

The pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) has long been recognized as an emotionally charged and highly stressful place. As early as 1972, Hay and Oken11 described an ICU as “a massive array of stimuli [with] an atmosphere not unlike that of a tension-charged war bunker.” Children admitted to the PICU bring with them families from many different backgrounds, ethnicities, cultures, religions, and socioeconomic strata. Admission of a child to the PICU may be one of the most stressful events for parents, because the outcome is often uncertain, the procedures are often painful, and intense emotions...

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