Nursing care for pediatric patients with autism spectrum disorders: A cross-sectional survey of perceptions and strategies


Pediatric Therapies Department, Pediatric Inpatient Unit, Advocate Children's Hospital

Advocate Children's Medical Group


PURPOSE: The purpose of this study is to describe nursing staff perspectives about caring for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in the hospital, strategies they use to support care, and relationships between these factors.

DESIGN AND METHODS: A descriptive, cross-sectional survey design with nursing staff at a large pediatric hospital system in the United States was employed. The researcher-designed, pilot-tested survey assessed participant demographics, knowledge about ASD, perceived effectiveness caring for children with ASD, previous training, and current strategy use. Data analysis involved descriptive statistics, correlations, and group comparisons based on interaction frequency with the population and previous training.

RESULTS: The participants involved 90 pediatric hospital nursing staff members providing direct care. Respondents demonstrated 90% accurate knowledge of the characteristics of ASD. Self-reported effectiveness in caring for children with ASD did not correlate with knowledge and significantly correlated with an increased number of strategies. Nursing staff with frequent interaction with people with ASD or those with previous training reported significantly more strategies to care for children with ASD. Only 35% of participants reported that they have adequate strategies to care for children with ASD in the hospital.

PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS: Having more strategies was the factor associated with higher self-efficacy, so training for nursing staff should focus on increasing the number of strategies to use with children with ASD in the hospital and provide mechanisms to collaborate with other professionals to individualize strategies to meet each child's needs.

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