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The art of developmental care in the NICU: a concept analysis


Marilyn Aita,
Wilson Hall 3506,
School of Nursing,
McGill University,


Introduction.  The survival rate of infants born prematurely and hospitalized in Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICUs) has increased due to improvement of the technology in obstetrics and neona tology that allows saving preterm infants at earlier gestational ages. Preterm infants are hospitalized in a care environment which is quite different from the maternal womb. Therefore the application of developmental care in NICUs is critical to promote the development of preterm infants while they are hospitalized.

Aim.  This concept analysis contributes to the body of knowledge in developmental care and clarifies its understanding as well as its involvement in neonatal practice and research.

Methods.  Using the method of concept analysis of Walker and Avant, this article identifies the definitions and uses of the concept of developmental care, exposes its main attributes and introduces a model case representing the acknowledged attributes. The antecedents of the concept and consequences of the application of developmental care are discussed.

Conclusion.  This concept analysis provides guidelines for nurses and health professionals to establish a ‘developmental care’ environment which is conducive for preterm infants. Moreover, it suggests conceptual and operational foundations of developmental care for clinicians and researchers in the neonatal field.

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