How do you measure the effect of giving a family a place to stay when they need to travel for a child’s treatment?
Last week, the Journal of Health Organization and Management published a study that aimed to get to the heart of that question.
The study was an international survey. It asked hospital leadership about the impact of their hospital’s affiliation with Ronald McDonald House Charities.
The results found over 90% of hospital leaders believe that Ronald McDonald Houses play a significant and important role in family-centred care.
When staff here saw the study, we wondered about a more local perspective. So we reached out to Dr. April Elliott, a Paediatrician and Adolescent Medicine Specialist in the Department of Paediatrics, University of Calgary and a member of our board of directors.
First of all, April, what’s your reaction to these findings?
I’m not surprised by the results!
What are your thoughts on the impact of Ronald McDonald Houses on hospitals?
I look at Ronald McDonald Houses as being part of the health care team.
Parents face additional stress when they need to travel to treat a child’s illness. Ronald McDonald House is a really valuable support system for parents in this situation.
A place to stay that’s right across the street from the hospital means the hospital is fully accessible for them. They can be fully present and participating in a child’s medical care.
The study specifically identifies ‘family-centred care.’ Can you explain a little bit about the main components of family-centred care?
Patient-and-family-centred care has four core concepts: 1. Dignity and respect; 2. Information sharing; 3. Participation; and 4. Collaboration.
For a health care team, applying these concepts means taking into consideration where the patient and their family is at; discovering what are their core values and beliefs. It also means encouraging the family to participate in the care and decision-making.
It’s a concept that hospital leadership works to put in action every day. For example, when the new Alberta Children’s Hospital was built, it was decided that the Medical Library would become the Family Resource Centre. It provides information and resources that support the patients and their families during their healthcare journey; as this is seen as an integral part of treatment. So the Medical Library became the Family Resource Centre.
During a child’s treatment, parents make decisions alongside the medical team every day. Can you talk a little bit about the role that a parent has when their child is undergoing treatment?
I tend to see this situation through a specific lens. The lens has to do with mindfulness and with someone’s ability to be in the moment.
Uncertainty causes stress. Information can be very powerful in easing that, but if we’re worrying because of lack of support, we’re not in the moment. We’re not able to process information and ease the uncertainty.
So the support provided by Ronald McDonald Houses helps parents be in that moment?
Ronald McDonald Houses help family members meet every day physical needs, such as a good night’s sleep and access to a kitchen for regular meals. And on an emotional level, the support services in the House help family members feel less isolated.
I’m really pleased to see that hospital administrators recognize that Ronald McDonald House play a role on the health care team.
I’m of the same mind as the 90% who agree: Ronald McDonald Houses do have a significant impact on a hospital’s ability to support family-centred care!
Dr. April Elliott is a Paediatrician and Adolescent Medicine Specialist in the Department of Paediatrics, University of Calgary and a member of our board of directors.
Read the press release associated with the study.