Barriers to addressing social determinants of health in pediatric nursing practice: An integrative review

Document Type

Journal Article




School of Arts and Humanities




Tallon, M. M., Kendall, G. E., Priddis, L., Newall, F., & Young, J. (2017). Barriers to addressing social determinants of health in pediatric nursing practice: An integrative review. Journal of Pediatric Nursing. 37 (Nov-Dec), 51-56. Available here


Problem: Despite a substantial body of knowledge regarding the importance of the social determinants of health, recognizing and responding to the psychosocial circumstances of seriously and chronically ill children and their families is not well established in routine pediatric nursing care.

Eligibility Criteria: The search process focused on psychological and social determinants and care in the healthcare setting. Searches were limited to research and review publications written in the English language. The quality of evidence was graded using the National Health and Medical Research Council evidence hierarchy.

Results: Thirteen publications were identified for inclusion. Healthcare providers do recognize emotional distress experienced by patients, but feel unable to address psychosocial issues due to the lack of time, a lack of confidence in their own communication skills, and the perception that patients and their families prioritize physical care over psychosocial care. For patients and their families the main issue was that the healthcare system was focused on physical care with little opportunity to talk about psychosocial concerns.

Conclusions: The greatest barrier to addressing the social determinants of health in the pediatric context is the dominance of the ‘medical model’ of care. Also, many healthcare providers believe that they lack the communication skills necessary to talk about psychosocial issues.

Implications: The way forward will be to empower nurses through the sharing of knowledge of the social determinants of health, the development of skills in relationship building and therapeutic communication, and the mentorship of compassionate family-centered care.