Developing guidelines in nursing care of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder in high technology health care settings

Sammanfattning: Introduction. The high technology environment such as a radiology and anaesthesia department in a typical health care setting can many times be a frightening environment for children. Children with neurodevelopmental disorders, such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), have problems with communication and social interaction. They are dependent on routines and can have higher sensitivity to sensory stimuli than other children. These children are one group who constitutes special challenges in reducing anxiety and creating participation in a high technology environment. This can make them prone to frightening encounters in health care settings if not cared for with special consideration.Aim: The overall aim of this thesis was to audit and enhance the care of children in a high technology environment in the health care system with a focus on children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.Methods: A descriptive design was used with both qualitative and quantitative methods. In Study I, 32 nurse anaesthetists were interviewed to explore the actions and experiences of caring for children in a high technology environment using a qualitative method, known as the Critical Incident Technique (CIT). In the two following studies (Study II, III) a cross-sectional design was used and two national surveys were performed to obtain knowledge on the status in Sweden regarding the care of children with ASD in high technology environments. Sixty-eight anaesthesia departments, 38 paediatric departments and 86 radiology departments responded to the survey. Descriptive statistic was used for the answers apart from the comments part of the questionnaire where qualitative content analysis was used. Due to the limited existence of guidelines in these environments, the creation ofevidence-based guidelines was performed in Study IV, using a Delphi method. The Delphi study was based on information gleaned from the previous studies and from the literature, and 21 experts identified in Study II and III were the expert panel developing the guidelines.Result: Nurses identified children with special needs such as children with ASD as a vulnerable group in a high technology environment (Study I). Seven departments in the anaesthesia context had guidelines for caring for children with ASD in the perioperative context. In the other departments, the care of children with ASD was dependent on the knowledge of the nurse presently working there (Study II). None of the radiology departments in Sweden had guidelines on how to care for children with ASD going through a radiographic examination without anaesthesia (Study III). As a result of Study I, II and III, the need for structured guidelines for caring for children with ASD in a high technology context was identified and a set of guidelines and a checklist was created. The guidelines relate to the organisational structure for the care of children with deficits in social interaction, communication, sensory sensitivity and dependence on routines. The checklist relates to gleaning information about the specific child to be able to give person-centred care based on the specific characteristic of the child (Study IV).Conclusion: Nurses working in a high technology environment in health care have diverse experiences of preventing anxiety in children with ASD coming for a challenging procedure. There are a limited number of evidence-based guidelines to decrease anxiety and to create participation in this group ofchildren. Evidence-based guidelines were created as a tool for enhancing person-centred care in a high technology environment for this group of children. The fact that several problems are assembled under one disorder makes ASD a useful condition to have as a basis for formulating national guidelines. Guidelines that cater for the care of children with ASD in a high technology environment using a person-centred approach may also extend to the care for children with other neurodevelopmental disorders that exhibit some of the same problems as children with ASD.