To examine the needs, uncertainties, and experiences of parents during their child’s hospitalization with highly suspected severe acute respiratory syndrome (HSS), and to identify ways to improve their psychological preparedness and communication with health care professionals and their isolated children during future infectious disease outbreaks. Qualitative, semistructured interviews were conducted in July 2003 with parents of HSS pediatric patients. Seventeen HSS patients were hospitalized in a pediatric outpatient clinic of a major academic medical center in Hong Kong, between March 20 and May 28, 2003, during severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). Seven parents (41%) consented to participate in the study. Four major themes were identified from the interviews: 1) fear of immediate isolation and infection control procedures, 2) sources of anxiety, 3) coping, and 4) communication with children and health care professionals. Findings indicate a need to improve the psychological preparedness of the parents regarding the child’s immediate isolation during hospitalization. Ample preparation and appropriate communication among parents, health care workers, and children might minimize fear and anxiety, sustain trust, and facilitate mutual understanding during an infectious disease outbreak.
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