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What Neonatal Intensive Care Nurses Need to Know About Neonatal Palliative Care

Ahern, Kathy PhD, RN

Section Editor(s): Catlin, Anita

doi: 10.1097/ANC.0b013e3182891278
Ethical Issues in Newborn Care

The purpose of this study was to identify and prioritize topics for a professional development program in neonatal palliative care. A total of 276 nurses and midwives who work in an Australian neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and 26 international healthcare professionals working in NICU and palliative care served as participants. A Delphi technique was used, consisting of a series of rounds of data collection via interview and questionnaire, to identify and consolidate opinions of nurses and other healthcare professionals who work in neonatal intensive care units. The main outcome measures were: (1) Topics to be included in a professional development program for nurses working in neonatal intensive care units and (2) the preferred format of the program. Twenty-three high-priority topics were identified, which included preparing families when death is imminent, how to provide emotional support to grieving parents, advocating for a dying baby, and assessing and managing pain in a dying baby. Care of a dying infant requires the same skill set as caring for older terminally ill children internationally. A combination of face-to-face lectures and interactive workshops using case studies and audiovisual examples is the preferred format.

School of Nursing and Midwifery, The University of Queensland, Ipswich, Australia.

Correspondence: Kathy Ahern, PhD, RN, School of Nursing and Midwifery, The University of Queensland, 11 Salisbury Rd, Ipswich, Australia 4305 (

This study was supported in part by the Mater Mothers' Research Centre. The author thanks Fiona Hawthorne and Trish Wilson for providing their clinical expertise.

The original research was conducted at the Mater Mothers' Hospital, Brisbane, Australia, and electronically. The author received a consultancy fee from the Mater Mother's Research Centre and has no actual or potential conflict of interest.

© 2013 National Association of Neonatal Nurses