1. Richter, Lindsay L. MSc, BSc
  2. Ku, Connie BSc, BSN, RN
  3. Mak, Meagan Yan Yu BA
  4. Holsti, Liisa PhD, OT
  5. Kieran, Emily PhD, MB, BCh, BAO, MRCPI
  6. Alonso-Prieto, Esther PhD
  7. Ranger, Manon PhD, RN


Background: The neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) stay following the birth of a preterm infant can be stressful and traumatic for families. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the NICU environment changed precipitously as infection control and visitor restriction measures were implemented.


Purpose: Our study aimed to examine the impact of the pandemic policies on the experiences of mothers of preterm infants during their stay in the NICU.


Methods: Semistructured interviews were conducted with mothers of preterm infants hospitalized in a Canadian tertiary-level NICU. Informed by interpretive description methodology, interview content was transcribed and analyzed using a thematic analysis approach. The identified themes were validated, clarified, or refined using investigator triangulation.


Results: Nine English-speaking mothers, aged 28 to 40 years, were interviewed. Four themes emerged from the analysis of their experiences: (1) disrupted family dynamic, support, and bonding; (2) physical and emotional isolation; (3) negative psychological impact compounded by added concerns, maternal role change, and survival mode mentality; and (4) positive aspects of the pandemic management measures.


Implications for Practice: During the pandemic, the way that care was provided in the NICU changed. This study helps to explore how neonatal clinicians can foster individual and organizational resilience to keep patients and families at the center of care, even when the healthcare system is under intense stress.


Implications for Research: : Our results show that these changes heightened mothers' distress, but also had a modest positive impact. Further research about long-term consequences of pandemic policies on the mother and preterm infant after NICU discharge is warranted.