• parent satisfaction;
  • parent perceptions;
  • neonatal intensive care;
  • integrative review



To synthesize findings from the published empirical literature on parent satisfaction with care provided in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

Data Sources

Electronic databases including CINAHL, Medline, Embase, PsycInfo, Sociological Abstracts, the Cochrane Library, and the Campbell Library were searched for relevant research dating from January 1990 to the beginning of October 2011. The reference lists of all studies were reviewed and the personal files of the authors were also searched for relevant studies.

Study Selection

Twelve studies (nine quantitative descriptive, two qualitative descriptive, and one mixed methods) were identified that met the review inclusion criteria. Only studies written in English were selected.

Data Extraction

Whittemore and Knafl's methodology for integrative reviews guided the data extraction and subsequent analysis. Studies meeting the review inclusion criteria were analyzed sequentially. Data were extracted and organized under the following headings: author, year, and country; study purpose and design; sample size and setting; study variables and data collection; study findings; and limitations.

Data Synthesis

Studies examining parent satisfaction with the care provided in the NICU were synthesized under four main themes: (a) parents’ degree of satisfaction with care, (b) factors associated with parents’ satisfaction with care, (c) elements of care parents view as important, and (d) discrepancies between parent expectations and actual ratings of care.


The vast majority of parents were highly satisfied with the care they and their infants received in the NICU. However, other evidence points to less-than-optimal NICU care that is not meeting parents’ expectations. These findings provide some direction as to what is important and satisfying to parents whose children must reside in the NICU. However, given the quality and dearth of the evidence, gaps remain in our understanding, and additional, more rigorous research is needed.