To explore pediatric family perspectives and preferences regarding whiteboard use, as well as recommendations for using whiteboards as tools for patient-centered communication and care.


Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 29 families in a pediatric urban academic hospital inpatient surgical service, exploring whiteboard experiences and suggestions. Parent responses were manually recorded during interviews. Quantitative data were analyzed by using descriptive statistics.


Of all families, 66% reported using the whiteboard, and 52% were informed about it by staff. Among users, parents who were informed of the whiteboard used it actively (writing to share information) 6 times more often than those who used it passively (as a visual reference). Pictorial whiteboard analysis found that 42% of whiteboards had parent writing. Of these, 80% had contact information alone. Among reasons for whiteboard nonuse, 58% were modifiable, including not knowing about it, assuming it was intended for staff, believing no one would read it, or physical inaccessibility. Parents overwhelmingly identified nurses as whiteboard users (81%) compared with physicians (who families did not identify as users). The majority (76%) of families offered recommendations to improve whiteboard effectiveness.


Of all families, approximately one-half were not informed about whiteboards and one-third did not use them. Reasons for nonuse were largely modifiable. Parents made aware of their whiteboard by their care teams demonstrated increased likelihood of active whiteboard use, highlighting the importance of education and suggesting a gap in harnessing the full potential of whiteboards as communication tools. Families’ recommendations can help inform whiteboard practices to strengthen communication and care.

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