Levels of anxiety in parents in the 24 hr before and after their child's surgery: A descriptive study

Laura Pomicino, Elena Maccacari, Sara Buchini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aims and objectives: To (i) investigate pre- and postoperative anxiety levels in parents of surgical patients; (ii) identify factors that affect parental anxiety; and (iii) analyse assistance provided and overall parental satisfaction to assess whether and how this aspect can impact their anxiety level. Background: Surgery as an event generates anxiety in children and their parents. Children who are anxious before surgery are likely to develop more postoperative psychological and physiological complications than those who are not. The role parents play in influencing emotional states of their children has been well demonstrated. However, specific national programmes aimed at helping parents develop new models for coping are relatively inexistent in Italy. Study design: Longitudinal study. Methods: One hundred and one parents of children undergoing surgery at a healthcare facility in Padua, Italy, completed the Italian version of the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory Form Y questionnaire. They also answered questions about their parents' socio-demographic situation, the amount and quality of preoperative information received, assistance provided and their overall satisfaction with this information. Results: The preoperative level of anxiety in parents who were interviewed was higher than Italian normative data, especially in Pediatric Cardiac Surgery and Pediatric Urology departments. Mothers had a significantly higher level of anxiety than fathers. Communicating possible complications of surgical procedures increased anxiety, while providing information about pre- and postsurgery nutrition and pain management and providing local anaesthetic on children decreased parental anxiety. Parents expressed a sufficiently high level of satisfaction although they defined the hospital environment as uncomfortable. Conclusions: Aspects of care that can make hospitalisation less traumatic for parents are as follows: greater support, involving them in the treatment process, improving hospital department admission procedures and providing thorough preoperative information. Relevance to clinical practice: Healthcare professionals are encouraged to pay attention to communication modalities providing detailed information to parents.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)278-287
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Clinical Nursing
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2018


  • adolescents
  • anxiety
  • care pathways
  • children
  • nursing
  • parents
  • surgery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)


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