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Transition from neonatal intensive care unit to special care nurseries: Experiences of parents and nurses

Helder, Onno K. RN, MSc; Verweij, Jos C.M. RN, MSc; van Staa, AnneLoes RN, MA, MD

Pediatric Critical Care Medicine: May 2012 - Volume 13 - Issue 3 - p 305–311
doi: 10.1097/PCC.0b013e3182257a39
Neonatal Intensive Care

Objectives: To explore parents’ and nurses’ experiences with the transition of infants from the neonatal intensive care unit to a special care nursery.

Design: Qualitative explorative study in two phases.

Setting: Level IIID neonatal intensive care unit in a university hospital and special care nurseries (level II) in five community hospitals in the Netherlands.

Participants: Twenty-one pairs of parents and 18 critical care nurses.

Methods and Main Results: Semistructured interviews were used. Thematic analysis and comparison of themes across participants were performed. Trust was a central theme for parents. Three subthemes, related to the chronological stages of transition, were identified: gaining trust; betrayal of trust; and rebuilding confidence. Trust was associated with five other themes: professional attitude; information management; coordination of transfer; different environments; and parent participation. Although nurses at an early stage repeatedly mentioned a possible transition to community hospitals, the actual announcement took many parents by surprise. Parents felt excluded during the actual transfer and most questioned its necessity. In the special care nursery, parents found it difficult to adjust to new routines and to gain trust in new caregivers, but eventually their worries dissolved. In contrast to neonatal intensive care unit nurses, special care nursery nurses quite understood the impact of transition on parents.

Conclusions: Both parents and nurses considered present transitional arrangements to be inadequate. Nurses should provide more effective discharge planning and transitional care. A positive labeling of the transition as a first step to home discharge for the newborn seems appropriate. Parents need to be better-informed and should be involved in the planning process.

From the Division of Neonatology (OKH), Department of Pediatrics, Erasmus MC University Medical Center, Sophia Children’s Hospital; Expertise Center Transitions of Care (JCMV, AvS), Rotterdam University; Erasmus University Rotterdam - Institute of Health Policy & Management (AvS), Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

The authors have not disclosed any potential conflicts of interest.

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©2012The Society of Critical Care Medicine and the World Federation of Pediatric Intensive and Critical Care Societies