Pediatric Behavioral Health in the ED: A New Normal?

Friday, 28 July 2017

Jamie Beth Rivera, MSN
Department of Nursing, Westfield State University, Westfield, MA, USA

Purpose: The purpose of this study was to gain knowledge about the experiences, perceptions, and feelings of pediatric emergency department nurses caring for behavioral health patients. It presents an overview of nurses who care for pediatric psychiatric patients in the emergency department.

Methods:  Colaizzi’s (1978) descriptive phenomenological method was used to discover the essence of the phenomenon of the nurses’ experience in caring for behavioral health patients in pediatric emergency department setting. The philosophical underpinnings of this phenomenological research will have the potential to promote the understanding of rich, detailed description surrounding the experiences of nurses who care for behavioral health patients. By learning the meaning of the experience, this researcher was able to expand the very limited body of knowledge of this topic. Data were collected through semi-structured interviews of three pediatric emergency room nurses. Interviews were audiotaped and transcribed by the researcher for analysis and description of themes using Colaizzi’s seven steps.

Results:  One hundred and four significant statements regarding the nurses’ experiences caring for behavioral health patients in a pediatric emergency room were extracted from the transcripts. From the significant statements, formulated meanings were created. After these formulated meanings were identified, they were organized into seven clusters of themes. The themes that emerged were: being on roller coaster of emotions, tis the season, working in a ticking time bomb, abuse of the system, a place for error, a sit and wait game, and threats and assaults.

Conclusion: This study of the nurses’ experiences of caring for behavioral health patients in a pediatric emergency department setting adds valuable insight to the literature. The study begins to address the deficit in the literature regarding the nurses’ perceptions and experiences of caring for these patients. These findings also provide nurses with a better understanding of how to care for pediatric behavioral health patients and their families. This can ultimately lead to increase in staff satisfaction, which would then increase patient and family outcomes in the ED.