Do parents understand emergency department discharge instructions? A survey analysis

Yehezkel Waisman*, Naomi Siegal, Michal Chemo, Gil Siegal, Lisa Amir, Yoram Blachar, Marc Mimouni

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Understanding discharge instructions is crucial to optimal healing but may be compromised in the hectic environment of the emergency department. Objectives: To determine parents'understanding of ED discharge instructions and factors that may affect it. Methods: A convenience sample of parents of children discharged home from the ED of an urban tertiary care pediatric facility (n=287) and a suburban level II general hospital (n=195) completed a 13 item questionnaire covering demographics, level of anxiety, and quality of physician's explanation. Parents also described their child's diagnosis and treatment instructions and indicated preferred auxiliary methods of delivery of information. Data were analyzed using the BMPD statistical package. Results: Full understanding was found in 72% and 78% of the parents at the respective centers for the diagnosis, and in 82% and 87% for the treatment instructions (P = NS between centers). There was no statistical correlation between level of understanding and parental age, gender, education, level of anxiety before or after the ED visit, or time of day. The most contributory factor to lack of understanding was staff use of medical terminology. Parents suggested further explanations by a special discharge nurse and written information as auxillary methods. Conclusions: Overall, parental understanding of ED discharge instructions Is good. However, there remains a considerable number (about 20%) who fail to fully comprehend the diagnosis or treatment directives. This subset might benefit from the use of lay terminology by the staff, institution of a special discharge nurse, or use of diagnosis-specific information sheets.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)567-570
Number of pages4
JournalIsrael Medical Association Journal
Issue number8
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2003


  • Children
  • Education
  • Emergency department
  • Medical instructions


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