AbstractsMedical & Health Science

A randomized controlled trial of storytelling as a communication tool aimed at parents of children presenting to the emergency department with croup

by Lisa Hartling

Institution: University of Alberta
Department: Medical Sciences - Pediatrics
Degree: Doctor of Philsophy
Year: 2010
Keywords: storytelling, narrative, randomized controlled trial, croup, parent
Record ID: 1880226
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10048/923


Background: Stories may be an effective tool to communicate with and influence patients because of their ability to engage the reader. Objectives: To develop story booklets and evaluate their effectiveness compared to standard information sheets for parents of children attending the emergency department (ED) with a child with croup. Methods: A systematic process was followed to develop and pilot-test the story booklets. Parents were randomized to receive story booklets or standard information sheets during their ED visit. The primary outcome of change in anxiety during the ED visit was assessed using the State Trait Anxiety Inventory, which was completed upon recruitment and at discharge. Follow-up telephone interviews were conducted at 1 and 3 days post-ED visit to gather information on secondary outcomes: symptoms, expected anxiety for future croup, satisfaction, regret, knowledge, return for medical care, and resource use. Telephone interviews were conducted every other day until symptoms resolved or until day 9. Outcomes were compared using independent-groups t-tests, Mann Whitney tests, or Chi-square tests. Results: There was no significant difference in the primary outcome of change in parental anxiety between recruitment and ED discharge. The story group (n=129) showed significantly greater decision regret regarding their decision to go to the ED than the comparison group (n=126) (p<0.001). The story group reported quicker resolution of symptoms: median days to no symptoms 3 versus 5; the survival distributions were significantly different (p=0.032). There were no differences for the remaining outcomes. Conclusions: This study provides preliminary evidence regarding the use of stories in the ED for an acute, self-limiting condition and contributes to a growing evidence matrix identifying when, where, and for whom storytelling may be most effective. Reasons for lack of significance for the primary and other outcomes may relate to choice of outcome, timing of outcome assessment, or disconnect between the intervention and needs of the end-user. Further research is needed to corroborate the significant findings and examine their underlying mechanism. An examination of risk of bias in a sample of pediatric trials demonstrates that there is room for improvement in the design, conduct, and reporting of research related to child health and provides direction for future research.