1. Neu, Madalynn PhD, RN, FAAN
  2. Klawetter, Susanne PhD, LCSW
  3. Greenfield, Jennifer C. PhD, MSW
  4. Roybal, Kristi MSW, MA
  5. Scott, Jessica L. MA
  6. Hwang, Sunah S. MD, MPH, PhD


Background: Family-centered care (FCC) in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) was initiated in 1992 to promote a respectful response to individual family needs and support parental participation in care and decision-making for their infants. Although benefits of FCC have been reported, changes in the maternal experience in the NICU are unknown.


Purpose: The purpose of this study was to compare mothers' experiences in NICUs where FCC is the standard of care and to compare these with the experiences of mothers 2 decades ago.


Methods: In this qualitative descriptive design, mothers of infants born under 32 weeks postconceptional age were asked to describe their experiences with their infant's birth and hospitalization. Open-ended probing questions clarified maternal responses. Saturation was reached after 14 interviews. Iterative coding and thematic grouping was used for analysis.


Results: Common themes that emerged were: (1) visiting; (2) general caregiving; (3) holding; (4) feeding; and (5) maternal ideas for improvement. Findings indicated important improvements in privacy, mother-nurse relationship, ease of visiting, and maternal knowledge and participation in infant caregiving.


Implications for Practice: Mothers suggested improvements such as additional comforts in private rooms, areas in the NICU where they can meet other mothers, and early information on back-transport. Better recognition and response for mothers without adequate social support would provide much needed emotional assistance.


Implications for Research: Future research addressing benefits of webcams, wireless monitors, back-transport, maternity leave, and accommodations for extended visiting for siblings would address other needs mentioned by mothers.