Research group for Phenomenological Studies in Health Sciences

Changes in children’s hospitalisation experience

Two researchers from the Department of Global Public Health and Primary Care (IGS) have conducted a phenomenological study of the past and present hospital experiences of children with Diabetes 1.

children in hospital

Main content

Characteristics of being hospitalized as a child with a new diagnosis of type 1 diabetes: a phenomenological study of children's past and present experiences.
Ekra EM, Korsvold T, Gjengedal E. Jan 2015

PhD student, Else Mari Ruberg Ekra, and Professor, Eva Gjengedal, from the Research group for Phenomenological Studies in Health Sciences at IGS, investigated how physical and social environments influence children’s experiences of being ill and hospitalised. They were particularly interested in assessing the impact of children’s conditions in hospitals in the past versus the present, given that understanding of children and childhood has changed over the past few decades.  Their study aimed to identify potential characteristics of children’s lived experiences as a result of being hospitalised with type 1 diabetes. It involved further analysis of 2 phenomenological studies; one conducted in the past (1950-1980) and one contemporary.

Lifeworld approach

The goal of qualitative phenomenological research is to describe a phenomenon by means of "lived experience". A phenomenological research study is a study that attempts to explore people's experiences as lived through in particular situations.

Being ill

Type 1 Diabetes is a common chronic disease often acquired in childhood. Its occurrence is increasing among children. The particular case of children with diabetes can illustrate the importance of the environment for hospitalized children in general.

The study showed that being ill and hospitalized revealed a tension between vulnerability and agency, both past and present. Vulnerability was expressed as alienation and passivity, and agency as recognition and activity. Previously, the hospital stay experiences for children could be described as being children in an adult world. The study showed that children both past and present encountered an unfamiliar and challenging environment and had to adapt to a new life and new environment. However, today the hospitalizations to a greater extent revealed that children changed through recognition and adaptation.  Balancing children’s vulnerability and agency seems to be the best way to care for children in hospital.

Importance of the child’s perspective

The study underlined the importance of listening to children and taking into account their lived experiences to best meet their needs under hospitalisation. The authors also suggested that it would be interesting to conduct further research into how childhood hospitalisation experiences mayinfluence later lives of patients, including their encounters with the health care system. They also propose further research into the experiences of health care professionals, past and present, when working with hospitalised children.