Children in the Radiology Department : a study of anxiety, pain, distress and verbal interaction

Abstract: This dissertation focuses on children’s experiences of going through an acute radiographic examination due to a suspected fracture. The findings from interviews with children aged 3-15 years showed anxiety, pain and distress to be a concern in conjunction with an examination (Paper I). These initial findings entailed empirical studies being undertaken in order to further study children’s pain and distress in conjunction with an examination (Paper II) as well as children’s anxiety, pain and distress related to the perception of care in the periradiographic process (Paper III). Finally, the verbal interaction between the child and radiographer during the examination was studied (Paper IV).The research was conducted through qualitative, quantitative and mixed method studies. The data collection methods comprised interviews (Paper I), children’s self-reports (Papers II and III), drawings (Paper III), questionnaire (Paper III) and video recordings (Papers I, II and IV). Altogether, 142 children (3-15 years) and 20 female radiographers participated in the studies.Children aged 5-15 years were observed and they completed selfreports on pain and distress. The children were also provided with an opportunity to express their perceptions of the peri-radiographic process and to make a drawing that was analysed with regard to their level of anxiety. Finally, the verbal interaction between the child and radiographer during the examination was analysed.Qualitative content analysis was used to analyse the interviews and the written comments in the questionnaire (Papers I and III). The Child Drawing: Hospital Manual (CD:H) was used when analysing the children’s drawings (Paper III), and the Roter Interaction Analysis System (RIAS) was used when analysing the verbal interaction derived from the video recordings (Paper IV). Non-parametric statistics were applied when analysing the quantitative data (Papers II, III and IV). The findings showed that children aged 5-15 years reported pain on the Coloured Analogue Scale (CAS) and distress on the Facial Affective Scale (FAS) above levels at which treatment or further intervention is recommended. These findings corresponded to the observed pain behaviour measured on the Face, Legs, Activity, Cry and Consolability Scale (FLACC) and anxiety expressed through drawings (CD:H). The children’s perception of the care being provided in the peri-radiographic process, was not related to the experience of anxiety, pain and distress however. The children were confident in the radiographers, who they perceived to be skilled in the task and sensitive to their needs. These findings are supported by the analysis of the verbal interaction (RIAS), which showed that the radiographer adjusted the communication when balancing the task-focused and socio-emotional interaction according to the child’s age.The findings point to the conclusion that children going through an acute radiographic examination should be assessed regarding the anxiety, pain and distress they experience. This is a prerequisite for the radiographer to provide care according to the child’s ability and preferences when interacting with children in the peri-radiographic process.