Effective nursing care of the adolescent undergoing spinal fusion requires attentive nursing interventions in response to a complex situation. The nurse's knowledge of psychological dynamics of adolescence, together with an empathetic attitude and ongoing teaching, helps the adolescent maintain an integrated ego throughout the dependent, postoperative stage. The adolescent's struggle for independence is exacerbated during this time of heightened body image and self-identity. Help from the “patient unit” (parents, caregivers, and peers) should be kept in focus by the nurse, as empowering this influential unit to take a proactive stance toward patient care aids the adolescent's emotional and physical healing. Balancing medical, nursing, psychological, and spiritual support is the keynote of postoperative care, which must be based on knowledge of adolescent psychological development as well as medical and nursing scientific principles.
Author Information Richard J. Slote, MS, RN, ONC, RNC, is a Clinical Nurse I at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City.