PURPOSE: Most patients with congenital heart disease (CHD) need lifelong cardiac follow-up. Transitioning to adulthood and transferring to adult-focused care are often challenging. We explored the experiences and needs of adolescents with CHD and parents during the entire transitional process, including the post-transfer period.
DESIGN AND METHODS: We performed a qualitative study according to the phenomenological approach, focusing on adolescents with CHD and parents. Semi-structured interviews were carried out with patients (n = 9) and parents (n = 12) after being transferred to adult care facilities. Data were analyzed with inductive thematic analysis. Data collection and -analysis of both samples were done separately in a first step, after which results were merged to discover common themes.
RESULTS: Five common themes were identified: 1) Having mixed feelings about leaving pediatric care; 2) Being prepared and informed; 3) Shifting responsibilities and roles; 4) Being accompanied during consultations; and 5) Gaining trust in new healthcare providers.
CONCLUSION: Adolescents with CHD and parents express a need for adequate preparation and personalized guidance to reduce anxiety and uncertainty during transition. The process may benefit from focusing on improving the adolescents´ transitional skills and disease-related knowledge, which may, in turn, facilitate handing over responsibilities and adapting to new roles by the parents. Adolescents appreciate the presence of parents during the consultation, albeit with reduced input. Finally, a transition coordinator and a joint transfer consultation involving the pediatric cardiologist seem paramount for a fluent transitional process, especially in establishing new treatment relationships.