Children are the center of a family’s universe. And in turn, parents and family caregivers mean the world to their children. When a child is faced with a medical issue, the child and family go through the health care experience together. Family-centered care is an approach to health care that acknowledges that families are central to the care, treatment and healing of their children. It provides the option for families and young patients to partner with health care professionals in all aspects of care, at the level they choose.
When we consider Child and Family Education in the medical setting, most of us think of the expertise physicians, nurses and other members of the health care team share with patients and families about diagnosis, treatment options, and symptomology. And this is an essential component of education. But family-centered education goes beyond this. Parents and family caregivers are also experts, experts at knowing their children, their responses to illness and treatment, their emotions, and detailed medical histories. Children, too, are experts in their own bodies and reactions, what feels better and what does not. Respecting the expertise of children and families ensures that education in health care is a reciprocal and dynamic exchange. And finally, education and expertise can also come from other families who have been down this road before. Parents who have had a similar journey with their children have valuable knowledge to impart to parents beginning their journey. Similarly, young patients can provide a level of understanding and wisdom to one another that few others can. When Child and Family Education encompasses these unique elements, it can provide holistic, profound information and comfort for all.
At NYU Langone, we promote a family-centered culture, where children and their families are integral members of the healthcare team. To further advance our commitment to family-centered care, in 2013 the Sala Institute for Child and Family Centered Care was established. First of its kind in mission and structure, it is comprised of four interrelated centers devoted to care, research, education, and training in support of family resilience; family experience; patient safety and quality; and education, learning, and innovation. The Sala Institute is anchored in the belief that when patients, families and healthcare providers build ongoing partnerships in a family-centered culture, the results are improved safety, higher quality of care, better patient outcomes and more supportive experiences for patients and their families.
Liza Cooper is the Child and Family Education Coordinator at the Sala Institute for Child and Family-Centered Care at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City. Liza has been a social worker in health care for twenty years and created the national program March of Dimes NICU Family Support®, which is in more than one hundred and thirty hospitals nationwide.