The lived experience of nurses caring for newborns with sepsis

J Obstet Gynecol Neonatal Nurs. May-Jun 2003;32(3):348-56. doi: 10.1177/0884217503253437.


Objective: To describe the lived experience of nurses who care for newborns with sepsis.

Design: Phenomenology, a qualitative study using open-ended, tape-recorded interviews, followed by a focus group discussion. The data were analyzed using Colaizzi's step-by-step procedure, resulting in an essential structure of the experience.

Setting: The nursery and neonatal intensive-care unit of a large community hospital in the southwestern United States.

Participants: Eleven registered nurses who cared for newborns in both a transitional nursery and the neonatal intensive-care unit were interviewed individually or in a focus group.

Results: Three major themes were generated from the data: (a) "Dealing With Death and the Blessings of Life," (b) "Sepsis: The Cancer in the NICU," and (c) "Losing the Dream: Parents' Reactions." The nurses had feelings of helplessness and frustration while caring for these sick newborns. Nurses described the changes in newborns' condition as sepsis developed, the actions taken to reverse the downhill course, and the experiencing of the outcome. Nurses perceived that parents responded with overwhelming fear, guilt, and loss of control.

Conclusions: The nurse caring for the infant with sepsis experiences many different emotions, reactions, and perceptions. These findings can assist nurses to have a better understanding of the role of the nurse and the emotional burden of working in the NICU.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Life Change Events
  • Neonatal Nursing
  • Nurse's Role
  • Nurse-Patient Relations
  • Nurses / psychology*
  • Nursing Care / methods*
  • Nursing Care / psychology
  • Sepsis / nursing*