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Sick children in hospital count feeling safe and getting enough sleep at night as their most important needs, according to new research from Edith Cowan University (ECU).

Being listened to by staff, areas for parents to purchase food and drinks and having family at the bedside to assist in care rounded out what kids consider essential.

The study was conducted by researchers at ECU’s School of Nursing after the development of the ‘Needs of Children Questionnaire’ (NCQ), the first of its kind to measure children’s self-reported psychosocial, physical and emotional needs in paediatric wards.

Almost 200 school-aged children in paediatric settings in Australia and New Zealand were surveyed.

Statistics show more than 1.7 million children were admitted to hospital in 2016-17, ranging from short visits to lengthy and regular stays.

Dr Mandie Foster, a nursing lecturer, research scholar and paediatric nurse, said the study filled a gap in understanding regarding how children feel in hospital settings.

“Historically, the literature on children’s needs and experiences within healthcare settings have been largely limited to surveys completed by adults answering for children,” Dr Foster said.

“To our knowledge, no instrument has been available to assess the perception of the needs of school-aged children during a hospital stay.”

The study, ‘Development and validation of the Needs of Children Questionnaire (NCQ): An instrument to measure children’s self-reported needs in hospital’, was published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing and found children surveyed identified their most important needs as:

  1. “To know I am safe and will be looked after.”
  2. “To get enough sleep at night.”
  3. “That staff listen to me.”
  4. “To have places my parents can go to for food and drinks.”
  5. “To have my mum, dad or family help care for me.”

Dr Foster said it was important to allow children in hospital to communicate for themselves.

“As adults we often make assumptions about children’s needs and wants, but hospitals can be a scary and unfamiliar environment for many children and we shouldn’t assume we know how they are feeling.

“Being listened to and understood can give children an added sense of confidence about the situation they find themselves in.

“And from a medical point of view, child self-reports are essential to inform healthcare delivery, policy, research and theory development.”