Assessing the postoperative recovery of pediatric patients is challenging as there is no validated comprehensive patient-centered recovery assessment tool for this population. A qualitative investigative approach with in-depth stakeholder interviews can provide insight into the recovery process and inform the development of a comprehensive patient-centered postoperative assessment tool for children.
We conducted open-ended, semistructured interviews with children 6–12 years old undergoing elective surgery (n = 35), their parents (n = 37), and clinicians (n = 23) who commonly care for this population (nurses, anesthesiologists, and surgeons). A codebook was developed and analyzed using NVivo 12 Plus. The codebook was iteratively developed using a qualitative content analysis approach with modifications made throughout to refine codes. We report the results of this thematic analysis of patient, parent, and clinician transcripts.
Postoperative recovery priorities/concerns overlapped and also diverged across the 3 groups. Topics prioritized by children included mobility and self-care, as well as access to a strong social support network following surgery. The majority of children reported feeling anxious about the surgery and separating from their parents, as well as sadness about their inability to participate in activities while recovering. Although children highly valued familial support during recovery, there was variable awareness of the impact of surgery on family members and support network. In contrast, parents focused on the importance of clear and open communication among themselves and the health care team and being equipped with appropriate knowledge and resources on discharge. The immediate repercussions of the child’s surgery, such as pain, confusion, and nausea, appeared to be a primary focus of both parents and clinicians when describing recovery. Clinicians had a comprehensive awareness of the possible psychological impacts of surgery in children, while parents reported varying degrees of awareness or concern regarding longer-term or more latent impacts of surgery and anesthesia (eg, anxiety and depression). Prior experience with pediatric surgery emerged as a distinguishing characteristic for parents and clinicians as parents without prior experience expressed less understanding of or comfort with managing a child’s recovery following surgery.
A patient-centered qualitative investigative approach yielded insights regarding the importance of various aspects of recovery in pediatric patients, their parents, and members of the health care team. Specifically, this investigation highlighted the importance of clear communication providing anticipatory guidance for families presenting for elective surgery in an effort to optimize patient recovery. This information will be used in the development of a patient-centered recovery assessment tool.