Support needs of parents in neonatal intensive care unit: An integrative review
Journal of Clinical Nursing
School of Nursing and Midwifery
Edith Cowan University
Having an infant in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) is associated with intense emotional stress for both mothers and fathers. However, with the right support from staff, this stress can be reduced significantly. Although evidence on needs of parents in the neonatal unit exists, there is lack of a systematic integrative review on the support needs of parents in the neonatal unit. Current review evidence is needed to support busy neonatal unit clinicians in their practice.
Aim and objectives:
The purpose of this integrative review is to explore the current available evidence to describe and understand the support needs of parents of infants in the NICU.
The integrative review process of Whittemore and Knafl (2005) was used to guide this study. Six databases—MEDLINE, CINHAL, PubMed, Scopus, Google Scholar and PsycINFO—were searched for eligible studies using relevant keywords. Primary studies published in English language from 2010 to 2021 were reviewed following a pre-determined inclusion criteria. Studies that met the inclusion criteria were critically appraised using the Mixed Methods Appraisal Tool (MMAT). The review report is guided by the PRISMA 2020 checklist for systematic reviews.
Overall, 24 primary qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods studies were included in the review. Analysis of included studies resulted in six themes that demonstrate the support needs of parents in the NICU; 1. Information needs; 2. Emotionally intelligent staff; 3. Hands-on support; 4. Targeted support; 5. Emotional needs; and 6. Practical needs.
This review has presented the current evidence on the needs of parents from their own perspective. Healthcare workers’ understanding and supporting these needs in the NICU is likely to increase parental satisfaction and improve health outcomes for parents, infants and their family.
Relevance to clinical practice:
Parents of infants in the NICU require staff support to enhance their experiences, well-being, caring and parenting confidence during admission and post-discharge. As parents are in constant need for informational, emotional and practical support, continuing professional development for NICU staff should place emphasis on effective communication strategies, enhancing emotional intelligence and empathy among staff. NICU staff should build positive ongoing relationships with parents and provide targetted support for mothers and fathers.