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  1. Loewenstein, Kristy PhD, RN-BC, PMHNP-BC
  2. Barroso, Julie PhD, RN, ANP, FAAN
  3. Phillips, Shannon PhD, RN


Having a child hospitalized in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) is a deviation from the norms expected for pregnancy and childbirth. A NICU admission may be traumatic for some parents, causing psychological distress and altered parenting roles. The aim of this integrative review is to examine the experiences and perceptions of a NICU hospitalization from the perspective of both parents to inform clinical practice and future research. A systematic search of 3 databases was conducted and included studies were evaluated by the Critical Skills Appraisal Programme checklist for qualitative studies. The Whittemore and Knafl integrative review methodology and the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis methodology were followed to provide a structure for searching and reporting findings. There were 248 participants (153 mothers and 95 fathers) from 9 countries and of varying socioeconomic backgrounds in the 16 primary qualitative studies included in this review. The resulting major themes included panic sequence, emotional upheaval, social support, faith, and adjusting. Interventions directed at managing parents' emotions, supporting their spiritual needs, facilitating parenting skills and infant attachment, and adapting the environment to parents' needs can help improve the NICU experience.