Challenges of Families of Patients Hospitalized in the PICU: A Preplanned Secondary Analysis from the Navigate Dataset∗

Julia B. Tager, Jessica T. Hinojosa, Brynn M. Liabraaten, Kathryn A. Balistreri, Danica Aniciete, Elizabeth Charleston, Joel E. Frader, Douglas B. White, Marla L. Clayman, Lauren R. Sorce, W. Hobart Davies, Charles B. Rothschild, Kelly N. Michelson, Doug White, Melanie Brown, Patricia Fragen, Jody Ciolino, Karen Rychlik, Stephen Persell, David VictorsonLaura Campbell, Melanie Arenson, Elizabeth Martinez, Virginia Alvarado, Melanie Brown, Anna Goldberger, Katie Parker, Jennifer Reichek, Craig Smith, Reggie Duerst, Farah Ali, Erin Rowell, Marcelo Malakooti, Terra Caswell, Amy Johnston, Sergio Grajeda, Michael Goldberg, Katie Leander, Rei Schenk, Pamela Spadino, Michael Terhorst, Elizabeth Terhorst, Stacey Turner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVES: To describe challenges experienced by parents of children hospitalized in the PICU during PICU admission as reported by family navigators. DESIGN: A preplanned secondary analysis of open-response data coded via inductive qualitative approach from the Navigate randomized controlled trial (RCT) dataset (ID NCT02333396). SETTING: Two university-affiliated PICUs in the Midwestern United States as part of an RCT. PATIENTS: Two hundred twenty-four parents of 190 PICU patients. INTERVENTIONS: In 2015-2017, trained family navigators assessed and addressed parent needs, offered weekly family meetings, and provided post-PICU discharge parent check-ins as part of a study investigating the effectiveness of a communication support intervention ("PICU Supports"). MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: We analyzed qualitative data recorded by family navigators weekly across 338 encounters. Navigators described families' "biggest challenge," "communication challenges," and ways the team could better support the family. We used an inductive qualitative coding approach and a modified member-checking exercise. The most common difficulties included home life, hospitalization, and diagnosis distress (45.2%, 29.0%, and 17.2% of families, respectively). Navigators often identified that parents had co-occurring challenges. Communication was identified as a "biggest challenge" for 8% of families. Communication challenges included lack of information, team communication, and communication quality (7.0%, 4.8%, and 4.8% of families, respectively). Suggestions for improving care included better medical communication, listening, rapport, and resources. CONCLUSIONS: This study describes families' experiences and challenges assessed throughout the PICU stay. Family navigators reported families frequently experience stressors both internal and external to the hospital environment, and communication challenges between families and providers may be additional sources of distress. Further research should develop and assess interventions aimed at improving provider-family communication and reducing stressors outside the hospitalization itself, such as home life difficulties.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)128-138
Number of pages11
JournalPediatric Critical Care Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2024


  • communication
  • critical care
  • hospitalized child
  • parents
  • psychological stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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