Study examines emotional and psychological impact of burns

A recent study funded by PMH Foundation supporters has looked into the emotional and psychological impact on children with burns injuries and their parents.

Burns injuries are relatively common in children, but until recently there has been limited research into the psychological experience and impact of burns on injured children and their parents.

Thanks to PMH Foundation donors, PhD candidate Sarah McGarry (pictured above with one of her patients, Ben) collaborated with a team of researchers from the Fiona Wood Foundation, Department of Paediatric Rehabilitation and Edith Cowan University to expand on the knowledge in this area.

The researchers initially investigated the symptoms of psychological distress in parents of children with burns, and found that about one in four parents showed symptoms of psychological distress, including depression, anxiety, stress, low levels of resilience and post-traumatic stress disorder.

From there, the researchers were able to identify four key factors known to increase the likelihood of parents sustaining psychological distress after their child suffered burns.

Dr McGarry explained this is an important finding because it now allows health professionals to screen for these key factors on admission to the burns unit, and for clinicians to provide early interventions for parents who could potentially experience psychological distress.

In the second phase of the research, Dr McGarry and the team identified and mapped the specific stages of the journey that parents experience. As part of this research, PMH Foundation funded Dr McGarry to travel to a remote Aboriginal community where she spent time learning about the experiences of parents of children who had travelled to Perth for burns treatment.

The team also conducted the first international study to document the experience of sustaining a burn from the child’s perspective, by speaking with children who have survived burns injuries.

Dr McGarry said the research findings will help inform clinical care at all stages of the burn journey, ultimately leading to improved outcomes for children.

“We’re now at the point where we can use this information to tailor interventions that really meet the child’s and parents’ needs, where previously we didn’t know what those needs were,” Dr McGarry said.

“Improvements in the professional understanding of children’s experiences in particular can really assist in improving holistic care, ultimately leading to better outcomes.”

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