Journal Article


Eleanor Joan Molloy
Fiona McNicholas
Anthony McCarthy
Ricardo Figuerdo
Udo Reulbach
Aoife Twohig


Medicine & Nursing

ethical approval infant care staff development infant behavior questionnaire survey intensive care neonatal socioeconomic factors mental health


Abstract The infant-parent relationship has been shown to be of particular significance to preterm infant socioemotional development. Supporting parents and infants in this process of developing their relationships is an integral part of neonatal intensive care; however, there is limited knowledge of NICU staff perceptions about this aspect of care. To explore NICU staff perceptions about attachment and socioemotional development of preterm infants, experience of training in this area and the emotional impact of their work. A cross-sectional questionnaire survey of staff perceptions of the emotional experiences of parents and the developing parent-infant relationship in an NICU was conducted in a Level III NICU, after pilot testing, revision, and ethical approval. Fifty-seven (68%) of NICU staff responded to the survey. Respondents identified parents' emotional experiences such as "anxiety," "shock," "loss of control," and "lack of feelings of competence as parents" as highly prevalent. Infant cues of "responding to parent's voice" and "quieting-alerting" were ranked most highly; "crying" and "physiological changes" were ranked lowest. Preterm infant medical risk, maternal emotional state, and mental health are perceived to impact most highly on the developing relationship, as compared with infant state or behavior and socioeconomic factors. Fifty-three (93%) respondents felt confident, and 50 (87.8%) felt competent discussing their emotional experiences with parents. Fifty-four (95%) responded that attending to these areas was an integral part of their role; however, staff had seldom received education in this area. Respondents also perceived that specific psychological support for parents was lacking both during and after the infant's discharge. While all staff surveyed perceived the nature of their work to be emotionally stressful, there were differences among NICU staff disciplines and with years of experience in the NICU in terms of their perceptions about education in this area, the place of supervision for staff, and in relation to opportunities to discuss the emotional impact of the work on staff. NICU staff perceive their role as integral to supporting the developing parent-infant relationship and preterm infant socioemotional development; however, education in this area and provision of specific psychological support are lacking. Opportunities for staff to discuss and reflect on this aspect of their work should be developed and evaluated given the essential, but emotionally challenging, nature of their work with preterm babies and their parents.
Collections Ireland -> Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland -> PubMed

Full list of authors on original publication

Eleanor Joan Molloy, Fiona McNicholas, Anthony McCarthy, Ricardo Figuerdo, Udo Reulbach, Aoife Twohig

Experts in our system

Eleanor J Molloy
TU Dublin (Tallaght Campus)
Total Publications: 22
Fiona McNicholas
University College Dublin
Total Publications: 38
Udo Reulbach
Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
Total Publications: 13