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Concept analysis, Infant, Neonatal intensive care, Parents, Uncertainty



  1. Malin, Kathryn Jeanne MSN, RN, NNP-BC
  2. Johnson, Teresa S. PhD, RN


Background: The concept of uncertainty in illness has been well described and applied to many different areas of nursing and other disciplines. Specifically, parental uncertainty in illness of an infant is a meaningful concept that has specific attributes and implications. A current concept analysis that considers the changing healthcare setting, historical conceptual inconsistencies, and a lack of information concerning parents of infants is needed.


Purpose: To identify essential antecedents, attributes, and consequences of parental uncertainty in illness using Rodgers' Evolutionary Concept Analysis method.


Methods: A literature search was conducted using PubMed, CINAHL, and PsycInfo. The following keywords were used in combination using the Boolean terms "AND" and "OR": parental uncertainty; infants; parental uncertainty in illness; preterm infants; parent; uncertainty. Inclusion criteria: articles published between 2000 and 2017 and published in English. The search included 38 articles published from 2000 to 2017 with a specific focus on parental uncertainty in illness.


Findings: Parental uncertainty in illness of an infant is a paradoxical, cognitive, and emotional experience in which there is an inability to create meaning and may cause disruption in parental role development.


Implications for Practice: Nursing care of parents with ill infants and children must include sensitivity to parents' experiences of uncertainty in illness. Nurses are uniquely positioned to normalize parental uncertainty and facilitate healthy coping.