Get access

The neonatal nurses' view of their role in emotional support of parents and its complexities



Aims and objectives

To explore the nurses' views of their role both in the neonatal intensive care unit and in the provision of interacting with, and emotionally supporting, families.


The neonatal intensive care nurse has a large and complex clinical role and also a role of emotional supporter for parents in the neonatal intensive care unit. Identifying components of their role and recognising the elements within the nursery that obstruct or encourage this role can allow for modification of nurse education and peer support.


Qualitative study based on semistructured interviews.


Nine neonatal nurses from a single neonatal intensive care unit were interviewed and the data analysed thematically using nvivo version 10.


Participants viewed their role as an enjoyable yet difficult one, requiring seniority, training and experience. They provided support to parents by communicating, listening, providing individualised support and by encouraging parental involvement with their baby. Constructive elements that contributed to the provision of support included a positive neonatal intensive care unit environment and providing a parent support group. More obstructive elements were a lack of physical neonatal intensive care unit space, little time available for nurse-to-parent conversation and language and cultural barriers between nurses and parents.


The role of the neonatal nurse in providing emotional support is complex and requires a high level of ongoing support and education for staff, and minimisation of physical and staff-related obstructions.

Relevance to clinical practice

The modern neonatal intensive care unit offers complex medical and nursing services and with this care comes higher needs from both babies and their parents. Neonatal intensive care unit nurses should be supported in their roles by having peer support available in the neonatal intensive care unit and education and training in emotional support and counselling skills. The nursing staff also require a comfortable and practical physical working space in which to assist parents to be with their baby.

Get access to the full text of this article