Shifting and intersecting needs: Parents' experiences during and following the withdrawal of life sustaining treatments in the paediatric intensive care unit

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Intensive & critical care nursing




Bereavement; End-of-life care; Family-centred care; Grief; Long-term outcomes; Qualitative


OBJECTIVES: To examine parents' perceptions of nursing care needs; including specific concerns, preferences and supportive actions for themselves and their dying child during and following the withdrawal of life support in the paediatric intensive care unit. RESEARCH DESIGN: Qualitative description with content analysis. SETTING: Interviews with eight parents of eight children who died in the paediatric intensive care unit 7-11 years prior. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Descriptive categories of parents' perceptions of end-of-life needs. FINDINGS: Parents identified four shifting and intersecting categories of needs: To be together, To make sense of the child's evolving clinical care, To manage institutional, situational, and structural factors, and To navigate an array of emotions in a sterile context. Being closely connected with the child was highly important, but often intersected with other domains, requiring nurses' support. Parents' memories demonstrated persistent uncertainty about their child's end-of-life care that influenced their long-term grief. CONCLUSIONS: Intersections between parent-identified care needs suggest potential mechanisms to strengthen nurses' care for dying children. Equipped with the knowledge that the parent-child bond often shapes parents' priorities; nurses should aim to facilitate connections amidst paediatric intensive care unit processes. Ongoing uncertainty in parents' adaptation to loss suggests that attention to instances when needs intersect can have a lasting impact on parents' grief.