Experience of families caring for a child with cystic fibrosis : a nursing response
Whyte, Dorothy A.
This thesis is concerned with families and chronic illness in childhood. The specific focus of the study is the nursing contribution to support of the family. A longitudinal study of the experience of four families caring for a child with cystic fibrosis was carried out using the ethnographic approach. Analysis of the four case studies provides insight to the effect of cystic fibrosis on each family member and on family interaction. The psychosocial transition by which the families moved from seeing themselves as healthy families to accepting the reality of a long-term health problem is described. The complexity of the effect of the genetic aspects and the grim prognosis is explored. The importance of finding meaning in suffering, the experiences of crisis and the chronic burden of care during the long-term adaptive stage of the illness are described. The support networks used by the families, and the nurse's contribution to that support are analysed. The research arose from practice and raises issues for nursing - issues relating to the level of interpersonal skill and the emotional investment required. The theoretical underpinning of nursing interaction is elaborated and the utility of systems theory in the understanding of the nursing situation is discussed. The importance of synchrony in the parents' adaptation to the child's illness is an emergent theme. The implications of the findings for nursing practice, management and research are discussed. The case for the development of a concept of family nursing to meet contemporary health care needs is argued.