Are the Child’s Parents Ready for Partnership?

Traditionally, the nurse/patient relationship is one of mutual satisfaction: the patient has needs and the professional nurse applies learned knowledge and skills to meet these needs. However, when working with families of children with disabilities, nurses may find an entirely different scenario. Robert Naseef, the father of a child with autism, uses the term "perilou s partnership" to describe the relationship between the parents of a child with special needs and the professionals involved in the child’s life. He goes on to describe:

"Parents’ relationships with professionals are born of necessity and desperation during a time of grief and are therefore rife with opportunities for misunderstanding and conflict. You don’t want to be there in the first place. No one wants to spend countless hours having his or her baby diagnosed and treated in offices, clinics, hospitals, and special schools by doctors, therapists, psychologists, teachers, social workers, et al. You simply want someone to fix your child and your dream–to take your pain away." (Naseef, p. 174)

It’s imperative that nurses remember that they are only one of the many medical, developmental, and educational professionals trying to establish a partnership with the child’s parents. Imagine the situation from Mom or Dad’s point of view: Parenting is a very personal occupation, and the parent/child relationship is an intimate one. Most parents are able to carry out their responsibilities and form relationships with their children in relative privacy. However, if that child has special needs, there are a host of professionals vying for the time and attention of the child and the parents. As Naseef asserts very bluntly, "You don’t want teams of professionals peering over your shoulder asking questions." (Naseef, p. 174) At a time when nurses working with the child are trying to establish working relationships with the parents, Mom and Dad may have little time or energy for any interactions outside of the parent/child bond. The stage is set for conflict.

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Parents usually show immediate appreciation for the efforts of nurses working with their children with disabilities.


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