Patient Care

Parental Perceptions of Nighttime Communication Are Strong Predictors of Patient Experience


Clinical question: How does parental perception of overnight pediatric inpatient care affect the overall patient experience?

Background: Restrictions on resident duty hours have become progressively more stringent as attention to the effects of resident fatigue on patient safety has increased. In 2011, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) limited total weekly duty hours to 80 and reduced shifts for junior trainees to a maximum of 16 hours. As a result, a majority of teaching hospitals have instituted “night float,” or night team models, for overnight coverage of pediatric inpatients. The rapid adoption of night float inpatient coverage models has raised concerns about training residents in a structure that may not foster patient ownership and may promote shift worker mentality. Although communication between healthcare providers and patients/caregivers is known to be a key driver of patient satisfaction, little is known about the quality of communication overnight in the era of night float teams.

Study design: Prospective cohort study utilizing survey methodology.

Setting: Two general pediatric units at a 395-bed, urban, freestanding children’s teaching hospital.

Synopsis: A randomly selected subset of children (0-17 years) with English-speaking parents/caregivers admitted to two general pediatric units was studied over an 18-month period. Both general pediatric and subspecialty service patients, including adolescent, immunology, hematology, and rheumatology, were included. Researchers administered written surveys on weekday (Monday-Thursday) evenings prior to discharge, and surveys were collected either later that evening or in the morning. The surveys included 29 questions that used a five-point Likert scale to assess communication and experience.

These questions covered the following constructs:

  1. Parent understanding of the medical plan;
  2. Parent communication and experience with nighttime doctors;
  3. Parent communication and experience with nighttime nurses;
  4. Parent perceptions of nighttime interactions between doctors and nurses; and
  5. Parent overall experience of care during hospitalization.

An open question addressing whether parents had anything else to share about communication during the hospitalization was included. The primary outcome measure was the so-called “top-box” rating of overall experience of care during the hospitalization (from construct five). This outcome was dichotomous based on whether the parent had given the highest rating or not for all five questions in that construct (either “excellent” or “strongly agree”).

A top-box rating of overall experience of care was found to be associated with high mean construct scores regarding communication and experience with doctors (4.85) and nurses (4.87). Top-box overall experience ratings were also associated with top ratings for coordination between daytime and nighttime nurses and for teamwork between nighttime doctors and nurses. Multivariable analysis showed that parents’ rating of direct communications with doctors and nurses and perceived teamwork and communication between doctors and nurses were significant predictors of top-box overall experience.

Bottom line: Parents’ perceptions of direct communications with nighttime doctors and nurses and their perceived teamwork and communication were strong predictors of overall experience of care during pediatric hospitalization.

Citation: Khan A, Rogers JE, Melvin P, et al. Physician and nurse nighttime communication and parents’ hospital experience. Pediatrics. 2015;136(5):e1249-1258.

Dr. Chang is pediatric editor of The Hospitalist. He is associate clinical professor of medicine and pediatrics at the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine, and a hospitalist at both UCSD Medical Center and Rady Children’s Hospital. Send comments and questions to [email protected].

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