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Burns psychology service

The Clinical Psychology service in Paediatric Burns supports children and young people who have suffered burn injuries both as inpatients and outpatients and also supports their families during this difficult time.

The Role of Psychology in Paediatric Burns

Burn injuries can be very distressing for children, young people, and their families, and sometimes it can feel difficult to cope. You may find that care from other members of the Burns team, or your own support at home, is enough for you. However, specific psychology support is available, if you need it.

The psychology service is for children of all ages who have suffered a burn injury. It supports children both as inpatients and outpatients, and is also here to support family members. The burn injury may have been recent or may have happened in the past.

What is a Clinical Psychologist?

Clinical psychologists are trained to help people to understand and manage their thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. They listen to peoples' concerns and work with children, their family, and those around them to find ways to help manage or overcome challenges. They usually ask about things that you enjoy doing and that are good for your wellbeing, and how to build these things into your daily life.

What do appointments involve?

You may be seen whilst an inpatient on the ward or within the outpatient clinic. Appointments can be in-person, on the telephone, or via video call. You can be seen as a family, or as an individual child or carer, with your permission. We will decide with you what feels most helpful and accessible to you at the time. For some children and families we may only need to meet up once, or we may agree that several appointments could be helpful. Sometimes psychologists work to support key people in a child's life, and help those people support the child themselves.

Common reactions to a burn injury include:

  • In children: Behavioural changes (e.g. difficulty sleeping, nightmares, reverting to immature behaviour, challenging boundaries, avoiding certain situations), emotional changes (e.g. separation anxiety, feeling worried or unsafe, feeling sad or tearful, irritability and sudden strong emotional outbursts), and appearance-related concerns.
  • In parents and carers: Often a burn injury can have a bigger emotional impact on the parent or carer. Many parents report feeling guilt about the injury having happened, worries that they are being judged, feelings of blame from themselves or other people, feeling anxious, helpless, and feeling worried about their child's future.

How can I be referred to see a Clinical Psychologist?

You can ask to be referred by any member of staff on the ward or by speaking to a member of staff when you come in for a Burns outpatient appointment. You can also phone the Burns team if you would like to discuss any concerns.

What about confidentiality?

Sometimes, you may not feel comfortable with other people knowing about your difficulties. What you say will be confidential (i.e. private) unless we are concerned for the safety of yourself or others. We will let others involved in your care know that you are working with us, and we may, at times, share information to help us to provide the best service that we can. We will try and discuss this with you first.

How to contact us:

  •  Paediatric Burns Outreach Team: 0117 342 7910,
  •  Bristol Royal Children's Hospital (BRCH) switchboard: 0117 923 0000 (ask to speak to the Burns admin team)

General advice:

Remember that many reactions are normal as after a scary event, your mind is trying to make sense of what has happened. You might find the following ideas helpful:

Find someone who you feel comfortable and safe talking to about what has happened and your feelings. Research evidence tells us that when we pay attention to our experiences, this can actually help to reduce feelings of fear, and increase our ability to cope over time.

Be kind to yourself and look after your relationships with family members or friends who may have been present at the time of the injury. Take care of yourself and spend with people who will support and relax you. As much as is possible, return to your normal routine and activities, particularly those things that matter to you.

If after several weeks following a new burn injury you don't feel any better, seek further support from the Burns team, including asking to speak with the psychologist.

Further resources:

Patient and family experience videos:

Members of the children's burn service have produced two patient-experience videos of parents and a patient who describe the impact of burn injuries and treatment on their physical and psychological health. The aims are to provide family-friendly information and reassurance, information on the types of support available, and tips about how to cope with the process of recovery and rehabilitation. Videos can be viewed here: 

Funding was generously provided by the South West Burn Care ODN.