How should we understand family-centred care?
What is family-centred care of a hospitalized child? A critical understanding of the concept of family-centred care is necessary if this widely preferred model is to be differentiated from other health care ideals and properly evaluated as appropriate to the care of hospitalized children. The article identifies distinguishable interpretations of family-centred care that can pull health professionals in different, sometimes conflicting directions. Some of these interpretations are not qualitatively different from robust interpretations of the ideals of parental participation, care-by-parent and partnership in care that are said to be the precursors of family-centred care. A prominent interpretation that regards the child and his or her family collectively as the ‘unit of care’ arguably arises from ambiguity and is significantly problematic as a model for the care of hospitalized children. Clinical practice driven by this interpretation can include courses of action that do not aim to do what will best promote a hospitalized child’s welfare, and such cases will not be unusual. More broadly, this interpretation raises challenging questions about the responsibilities and authority of health professionals in relation to the interests of hospitalized children and their families.