How family nurses care for young patients  

Family-centered care services are gaining more popularity in the nursing industry. This is because family nursing practitioners (FNPs) are exceptional at providing care to patients of all ages. These patients could include young individuals, from infants to adolescents. But how can family nurses fine-tune their practices to meet young patients’ delicate needs effectively?

Family nurses must be highly educated. Many nurses develop their expertise through advanced training and education, such as online programs from reputable universities. Marymount University offers online FNP programs, including MSN-FNP, DFP-FNP, and many more, that offer a comprehensive education in a flexible, online format.

These programs can help you achieve your goals, whether you’re looking to improve your skills or delve into the nursing leadership industry. This article will discuss the ways family nurses cater their care for young patients and how you can implement these methods into your care services.

Seven ways family nurses care for young patients

Family nurses are the backbone of nursing healthcare. These professionals are excellent at caring for young individuals, and these are some of the ways that they do so.

Providing developmentally appropriate care

When it comes to pediatric care, family nurses know that children are not merely miniature adults. Their bodies, minds, and emotions are constantly developing and changing. This difference in their physical and psychological development necessitates a unique approach to care. This is where developmentally appropriate care comes into play.

Developmentally appropriate care recognizes children’s development stages. These stages are characterized by different physical and cognitive milestones from infancy to adolescence. Family nurses are familiar with these milestones and understand what they mean for the child’s health. For instance, infants are likely unable to verbally communicate their discomfort, requiring you to observe their nonverbal cues such as changes in eating and sleeping patterns. On the other hand, a toddler may have the words but not the cognitive ability to comprehend their condition fully. Hence, it might be challenging to understand how they feel.

Your role as a family nurse extends beyond merely recognizing these stages. You need to tailor your care to match the child’s developmental stage. You may need to modify how you communicate with your patients to achieve this. For example, you could use dolls or picture books to explain a medical procedure to a preschooler or engage an adolescent patient in a detailed discussion about their treatment plan.

You may also need to adjust your physical assessment. The vital signs of a healthy infant can differ from normal adult heart rates. A baby’s heart rate ranges from 100 to 150 per minute, which is much higher than adults’ 60 to 100. This approach is essential because successful health outcomes are more likely when you provide care based on a child’s stage of development. This way, you can better explain their health conditions to your young patients, which reduces the fear and anxiety they usually associate with illnesses.

Your role as a family nurse is not just about treating an illness. It’s about understanding the child’s development and how it interacts with their health. Developmentally appropriate care helps you achieve this and ensures your patients receive the best care.

Family-centered care

Family nurses understand that their patient’s health outcomes can, sometimes, depend on their relationship with their family. This is where family-centered care comes in. This approach actively involves the patient’s family in the care process.

Family-centered care respects the intimacy of a family. It acknowledges the family as the child’s primary source of strength and support and recognizes that the family’s perspectives are vital in clinical decision-making. Your role in this approach isn’t just to provide care to the child; you must also relate with the family members.

One first step is creating an environment that encourages open communication. Encourage parents and siblings to voice their concerns and ask questions about the condition of the child. You can even entertain questions from a younger sibling who wants to know what’s wrong with their older sister or brother. These people know the child’s habits and behaviors better than anyone else, and their familiarity can go a long way in diagnosing and caring for the child.

You must also educate the family about the child’s condition and treatment plan. Explain clearly what is happening to the child and the reason for the occurrence. You can also extend this education to teach family members the necessary care skills to manage the situation. For instance, if one of your patients has asthma, you can teach their parents to use an inhaler and give them a step-by-step response to an asthma attack. This education aims to ensure that care continues, even when the child is at home. Educating parents and siblings ensures that they can help manage the child’s condition and monitor for complications when there’s no healthcare professional available.

Family-centered care enhances the quality of pediatric care. It ensures the child and the family feel heard, respected, and involved. This can help them adhere to treatment plans and reduce the child’s and family’s anxiety and stress.

Preventive care

Family nurses aren’t just caregivers, they’re also vital health advocates. Your role extends beyond treating illnesses and managing symptoms. You can also significantly prevent diseases and promote health in younger patients. True to its name, preventive care aims to prevent diseases before they occur rather than treating them after they manifest. It involves regular check-ups, immunizations, and health education, to maintain health and detect potential problems early.

Regular check-ups are the cornerstone of preventive care. Family nurses must schedule routine visits to monitor young patients’ health and development. You’ll assess the child’s growth patterns and overall health status during these check-ups. You’ll also perform basic tests to catch potential health issues early on. For example, hearing tests, like the Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) test, can detect hearing abnormalities early, allowing timely interventions.

Immunizations are another crucial aspect of preventive care. They’re one of the most effective ways of preventing infectious diseases. As a family nurse, you must ensure parents are up-to-date with their child’s vaccination schedule to avoid conditions such as measles and polio. You should also educate them on the importance of vaccines and clear any misconceptions they may have about vaccination.

Another thing to educate your patients and their families on is healthy habits, such as proper nutrition and regular exercise. You can also guide them on the best ways to prevent injuries, such as using baby car seats while driving and having safety equipment in their homes, such as carbon monoxide alarms.

Psychosocial support

Family nurses might often see cases where parents complain about a child withdrawing in certain situations or environments. These complaints can range from having low stamina to having difficulty concentrating. This child may have a psychosocial disorder, such as depression, anxiety, or reactive attachment disorder. Family nurses can support these patients physically, emotionally, and socially. Children and adolescents can face various psychosocial issues, and family nurses must be able to provide the necessary support.

Psychosocial support means understanding and supporting your young patients’ emotional and social needs. It’s where you encourage their resilience and promote their positive mental health. One of your first steps in providing psychosocial support is to create a safe, non-judgmental space for your young patients. Encourage them to share their feelings, fears, and concerns. Being patient, empathetic, and reassuring them that all will be fine can improve their overall well-being.

You may wonder how to discover psychosocial issues in young patients. Nurses should look out for signs of distress during routine check-ups, such as sudden mood swings, social withdrawal, and changes in their behavior. You can also use tools like the Pediatric Symptom Checklist to assess psychosocial functioning and identify potential problems.

Once you identify a potential issue, ensure you discuss your concerns with the child and their family and provide reassurance and guidance. Depending on the severity of the problem, you may also need to refer the child to specialized services, such as a child psychologist or social worker.

Identifying these mental health issues early can prevent future serious mental health problems, improving the child’s quality of life.


One of the most potent tools you wield as a nurse is communication. A nurse’s role is not only about what you communicate; how you communicate is also critical.

Some practical communication approaches you can take with young patients involve using age-appropriate language and techniques to explain medical procedures and alleviate their fears; how you communicate with a five-year-old will differ from how you communicate with a teenager.

For younger children, use simple language and analogies they can understand. For instance, you might describe an MRI machine as a “big camera that takes pictures of your insides” or equate getting an injection to a “quick pinch.” These analogies make it easier for children to understand their treatment. You can also use visual aids such as books and pictures to explain medical concepts. Games, toys, and play can also be incredibly effective communication tools. For example, you can use a toy medical kit to demonstrate what will happen during a procedure to help reduce a child’s anxiety.

Communication with older children is a bit different. Here, you can use more complex languages, but explaining things clearly and understandably is still essential. You can also encourage them to ask questions and express their concerns about medical procedures.

Good communication promotes trust and rapport between you and your patients. Communicating shows your patients that you respect them and care about their feelings. This trust can make them more comfortable and cooperative during their treatment.

Care coordination

The role of a family nurse is multifaceted. Besides providing direct patient care, you may also assume the care coordinator role. This means you may be a liaison between your young patients, their families, and other healthcare providers. In this role, you must ensure that your patients receive seamless, coordinated care from these professionals.

Care coordination involves managing and organizing all aspects of a patient’s healthcare. It means you must ensure everyone, including doctors, specialists, therapists, and social workers, are on the same page. This could mean scheduling and monitoring appointments, facilitating communication between providers, and explaining treatment plans to each party.

For example, if your young patient needs to see multiple specialists, you might help schedule these appointments in a manageable way for the family. You might also ensure all providers have information about the patient’s condition and treatment plan. If the hospital discharges your patient, you may coordinate with home health services, arrange for necessary equipment or medications, and ensure the family understands the discharge instructions.

Care coordination helps ensure that your young patients receive comprehensive, consistent care. You can prevent gaps in care and reduce the risk of medical errors by coordinating the care process of your patient. It also alleviates the stress and confusion of navigating the healthcare system. Families can be overwhelmed with dealing with their child’s illness, coordinating appointments, and communicating with various healthcare providers, and it is your job to help ease their burden.

Pain management

Family nurses are often the first line of defense when managing pain in their young patients. You should understand that children express pain differently than adults and will have the training and skills to interpret these signs and provide effective pain management. Pain management in young patients must be tackled strategically.

First, you must recognize and assess the patient’s pain. You need to observe non-verbal clues, such as crying or restlessness, in children who may be unable to verbalize their discomfort. You can use pain scales to allow older children to rate their pain levels.

Once you have identified the severity of a patient’s pain, you can then work to alleviate it. This could involve administering pain medications, or non-pharmacological methods, such as distraction and relaxation techniques. You can also work with other healthcare professionals, such as pain specialists, to develop a pain management plan.

You should also educate your patients and their families about pain. Discuss the reasons why they’re experiencing their pain and how they can manage it. Encourage them to communicate about pain openly and assure them that you take their pain seriously.

Pain management is vital because unmanaged pain can negatively impact a child’s quality of life. It can cause sleep disturbances and increased heart rates. Besides this, pain management can also improve the overall healthcare for your young patients, because when you manage their pain well, children are less likely to be anxious about medical treatments.

Role of Family Nurse Practitioners

Family nurses provide tailored approaches for young patients in incredible ways. Their role extends far beyond the conventional responsibilities of nursing. It encompasses family-centered care, preventive care, pain management, and more. These professionals have the necessary training and expertise every young patient needs to persevere in their treatment and get better faster.