• narrative research;
  • parent;
  • primary nurse;
  • primary nursing;
  • preterm infant;
  • termination of caring relationship


Primary nursing working model in the neonatal intensive care unit enables a long-lasting caring relationship with the infants and their parents. Terminating this kind of relationship is seldom discussed.


The aim of the study was to describe nurses' experiences of terminating the primary nursing relationship with the parents in neonatal intensive care.


Qualitative design using narrative method was used because there is a little knowledge relating to the topic. The data were collected with active interviews and analysed with narrative analysis. Seven nurses with experience of neonatal intensive care and primary nursing were recruited by convenience sampling. The approval was granted according to the hospital guidelines.


The results gave rise to the three narratives that described the relationship between the primary nurse and the parents as the nursing relationship ends. All narratives shared a common plot, ‘regulation of the closeness on nursing relationship', but it was manifested in different ways in each narrative. The plot in the narratives changed on a closeness–distance axis according to how the primary nurse regulated the nursing relationship and its termination. In the first narrative, the regulation of the relationship promoted distance, in the second connection and in the third closeness and connection.


The long-lasting nature of the primary nursing working model may allow different caring relationships which will be revealed in terminating phase of care. This phenomenon is poorly recognised. It is important to study the caring relationship between the primary nurse and the parents of a hospitalised child, because the caring relationship is the core of nursing and needs to be considered in research and supported in practice.