Adjusting to a child's diagnosis of an illness or injury often makes even the most resilient parents feel stressed and overwhelmed. After hearing of his daughter's cancer diagnosis, one father explains "Cancer is a sobering reminder that aspects of our lives are not in our control. As parents, of course, the test is how we conduct ourselves in the face of a situation that is so-unfair-I-am-free-falling-out-of-control-please-make-this-stop!" For him, researching his daughter's diagnosis, prepping a list of questions for the doctors, and bringing a pen and pad of paper helped him cope. He reminds parents that "Your life is ruled by appointments and the unexpected" and "cancer takes a mental and emotional toll".
Doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers need to remember that cancer and other illnesses and injuries stress the emotional coping skills of their patients and families. In some cases, traumatic stress reactions can have serious implications for medical outcomes. Helping patients cope with a diagnosis can help lessen these reactions that may interfere with their health and functioning. To help, incorporate an understanding of traumatic stress into your encounters with children and families. Work to minimize the potential for trauma during medical care. Provide screening, prevention, and anticipatory guidance to both your patients and their parents. When you identify children and families in distress, or at risk, make appropriate referrals.
In what ways to do you help your patients and their families cope with illness or injury?