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Keywords:

  • family care;
  • hermeneutics;
  • home care;
  • neonatal care;
  • nursing;
  • parenting;
  • phenomenology

Abstract

Aim

A descriptive study of parents' experiences with neonatal home care following initial care in the neonatal intensive care unit.

Background

As survival rates improve among premature and critically ill infants with an increased risk of morbidity, parents' responsibilities for neonatal care grow in scope and degree under the banner of family-centred care. Concurrent with medical advances, new questions arise about the role of parents and the experience of being provided neonatal care at home.

Design

An interview study with a phenomenological hermeneutic approach.

Methods

Parents from a Swedish neonatal (n = 22) home care setting were extensively interviewed within one year of discharge. Data were collected during 2011–2012.

Findings

The main theme of the findings is that parents experience neonatal home care as an inner emotional journey, from having a child to being a parent. This finding derives from three themes: the parents' experience of leaving the hospital milieu in favour of establishing independent parenthood, maturing as a parent and processing experiences during the period of neonatal intensive care.

Conclusions

This study suggests that neonatal home care is experienced as a care structure adjusted to incorporate parents' needs following discharge from a neonatal intensive care unit. Neonatal home care appears to bridge the gap between hospital and home, supporting the family's adaptation to life in the home setting. Parents become empowered to be primary caregivers, having nurse consultants serving the needs of the whole family. Neonatal home care may therefore be understood as the implementation of family-centred care during the transition from NICU to home.