Communicating with Young People Who Are Seriously Ill is Difficult
Managing communication with young people who have a potentially life
threatening chronic illness: qualitative study of patients and parents
BMJ Volume 326
people who are seriously ill can feel unable to participate in consultations and
parents may be reluctant to communicate openly with their children. Health
professionals must try to balance the different priorities of young people and
parents, suggest researchers from the University of Leicester in this week’s British
cancer patients aged 8-17 years, and their parents, gave accounts of
communication about their illness.
parents described acting in an executive-like role, managing what and how their
children were told about their illness, particularly at the time of diagnosis,
when parents faced the difficult job of dealing with their own emotional
responses. Parents were very keen to protect their child’s well-being, and
wanted to show their child that they were strong and optimistic. This could
sometimes mean that they avoided sharing threatening information with their
the young people welcomed their parents’ involvement, some felt that
communication was constrained by their parents’ role. One patient aged 15
said: “…I still didn’t feel that they were telling me everything”. Some
young people described feeling marginalised in consultations and pointed to
difficulties they experienced in encounters with some doctors.
young people in our study clearly wanted their parents to be involved in
communication but were not always satisfied with how communication was managed,
say the authors.
need to remain aware of how the power relations of professional-parent-child
encounters can be an obstacle in forging successful relationships between health
professionals and young people. These issues will be of crucial importance in
implementing the new children’s national service framework, they conclude.
study was conducted by Bridget Young, formerly of Leicester and now at Hull,
with Mary Dixon-Woods, Kate Windridge and David Heney from the University of
TO EDITORS: Mary
Dixon-Woods, Senior Lecturer in Social Science and Health, Department of
Epidemiology and Public Health, University of Leicester, 22-28 Princess Road
West, Leicester LE1 6TP. Telephone 0116 252 3204 or Email firstname.lastname@example.org
This document has been approved by the head of department or section.