Finding a place to stay can be a major stressor for families traveling long distances for their child’s hospitalization. When the necessary specialist pediatric medical care is not available near home, uncertainties about transportation and accommodation become sources of both emotional and financial stress.3 Hospitals can play a greater role in understanding each family’s accommodation needs, before their hospital stay when possible, and can work to ensure these needs are adequately met upon arrival so that the family is able to focus more fully on the child and their care.
Families want to stay together when their child is hospitalized and believe it helps improve their child’s recovery. Families of seriously ill children want to be with their child as he/she receives treatment and do not want to be separated from spouses, partners and other children for extended periods of time. In the first in a series of studies examining the questions of accommodation and proximity, we found that families who stayed together for at least some of their child’s hospitalization believed more strongly that their presence nearby improved their child’s recovery. They also believed that RMH helped their family to stay together. Cultural differences were evident, with Hispanic families believing more strongly that RMH shortened their child’s hospital stay.4
Nearby purpose-built accommodation provides families with much-needed rest while enabling them to stay close to their hospitalized child. In another study5, we measured sleep quantity and quality in parents who stayed in a RMH and those who slept at the child’s bedside. We found that parents who slept in the child’s hospital room had poorer sleep (more awakenings and feeling less rested after a night’s sleep) than parents who slept in the RMH. Nearby family accommodation may facilitate parent-child proximity during a child’s hospitalization while also providing parents with opportunities for essential sleep.
Families who stay in nearby purpose-built accommodation report more positive patient experiences. In our most recent study of 10 hospitals that provide pediatric services across the United States6, the most common accommodation for pediatric inpatient families was at the bedside (76.8%) and for neonatal intensive care families was in their own home or the home of a relative or friend (47.2%). Yet those families who stayed in a RMH reported significantly higher overall experience scores for their child’s hospital stay, were more likely to recommend the hospital and were more likely to view their accommodation as being helpful to staying involved in their child’s care than parents who stayed at the child’s bedside or their own homes. This study highlights how nearby accommodation that includes family peer-to-peer and other support services helped improve the quality of the hospital experience for these families.
Hospital leaders worldwide understand that meeting the accommodation needs of families is an important part of enabling family-centered care. While hospitals are appropriately focused on providing excellent medical care to those they serve, an international survey of hospital leaders also demonstrates an understanding that caring for the whole family allows better care for pediatric patients.7 Hospital leaders reported positive opinions about the contributions of their RMH affiliation to their ability to serve seriously-ill children and their families. This included such important outcomes as increasing family integrity and family participation in care decisions; and decreasing psychosocial stress and hospital social work resource burdens associated with lodging, food, transportation and sibling support.
What is it about the family accommodation program that makes such a positive impact on families and their hospital stay overall? It is not just proximity, lodging or a reduced financial burden. The program is designed to provide comfort, care and support to families through a shared experience with other families facing similar challenges, through activities and meals designed to provide a break from the stresses of daily caregiving, and through a comfortable and uninterrupted night’s sleep.
Future research is needed to understand what can be done for all families with hospitalized children. It is important that further research aim to understand how to better support families who are not traveling long distances to help provide more of the benefits that seem to be associated with an RMH stay. Psychosocial support, a community of families facing similar challenges and forced separation from the chores and expectations when one is at home may be important factors to consider.
1. Kuo DZ, Houtrow AJ, Arango P, Kuhlthau KA, Simmons JM, Neff JM. Family-centered care: Current applications and future directions in pediatric health care. Maternal and Child Health Journal 2012;16(2):297-305.
2. Kuhlthau KA, Bloom S, VanCleave J, Knapp AA, et al. Evidence for family-centered care for children with special health care needs: A systematic review. Academic Pediatrics 2011; 11(2):136-143.
3. Daniel G, Wakefield CE, Ryan B, Fleming CAK, Levett N, Cohn RJ. Accommodation in pediatric oncology: Parental experiences, preferences and unmet needs. Rural and Remote Health 2013;13(2):2005.
4. Franck LS, Gay CL, Rubin N. Accommodating families during a child's hospital stay: Implications for family experience and perceptions of outcomes. Families, Systems and Health. 2013;31(3):294-306.
5. Franck LS, Wray J, Gay C, Dearmun AK, Alsberge I, Lee KA. Where do parents sleep best when children are hospitalized? A pilot comparison study. Behavor Sleep Med 2014;12:307-316.
6. Franck LS, Ferguson D, Fryda S and Rubin N. The child and family experience: Is it influenced by family Accommodation? Medical Care Research and Review 2015 [Epub ahead of print] pii:1077558715579667
7. Lantz PM, Rubin N, Mauery DR. Hospital leadership perspectives on the contributions of Ronald McDonald Houses: Results from an international survey. Journal of Health Organization and Management 2015;29(3):3881-392.
||Nicole Rubin, MHSA, is the Founder and Principal of Impact Solutions, LLC, where she works with nonprofits on strategic planning and assessing impact. She formerly served in a variety of leadership roles for organizations such as Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southern California, Susan G. Komen for the Cure Greater New York City Affiliate and Methodist Health Care System in Houston, Texas.
Deron Ferguson, PhD, is the Director of Analytics at Qualis Health. Qualis Health is one of the nation's leading population health management organizations. He most recently served as Senior Director of Research and Analytics for the National Research Corporation.
Dr. Linda S Franck, RN, PhD is Professor and Jack & Elaine Koehn Endowed Chair in Pediatric Nursing at the University of California San Francisco School of Nursing. Her research program includes investigation of patient and family experience of health care and engagement of parents and children as partners in pain management and in research to improve quality of care and quality of life.