Distinctive nursing practices in working with mothers to care for hospitalised children at a district hospital in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa: a descriptive observational study

Journal Article


Journal Title

BMC Nursing

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Volume Title
Background The presence of family members and their active involvement in caring for hospitalised children is an established practice in many African paediatric settings, with family members often regarded as a resource. This aspect of African paediatric nursing practice lacks formal expression or a clear conceptual basis, and difficulties arise when applying concepts of family involvement originating from the culturally distinct practice environments of higher resourced settings including Europe and America. The aim of this study was to articulate a nurse-led practice innovation intended to facilitate family involvement in the care of hospitalised children, observed in a paediatric inpatient ward in a district hospital in rural KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Methods A qualitative case study design was used. Data collection included visual research methods (graphic facilitation, sociograms and photo-elicitation) as well as a focus group, interviews and practice observation. Activities associated with 20 nurses and 22 mother-child dyads were observed. Data were subjected to content analysis, with Standards for Reporting Qualitative Research (SRQR) applied. Results Findings relate to six aspects of practice, categorised thematically as: preserving the mother-child pair; enabling continuous presence; psychological support and empathy; sharing knowledge; mothers as a resource; and belief and trust. Conclusion The nursing practices and organisational policies observed in this setting relating to the facilitation of continuous maternal presence represent a distinctive nursing practice innovation. This deliberate practice contrasts with models of care provision which originate in higher resourced settings including Europe and America, such as Family Centred Care, and contrasts with informal practices in local African settings which tolerate the presence of mothers in other settings, as well as local institutional policies which limit mothers’ presence to varying extents.