Objective: A systematic review of the literature was conducted to answer the following 2 questions: (a) What are the needs of parents who have infants in the neonatal intensive care unit? (b) What behaviors support parents with an infant in the neonatal intensive care unit?
Data sources: Using the search terms "parents or parenting" and the "neonatal intensive care unit," computer library databases including Medline and CINAHL were searched for qualitative and quantitative studies. Only research published in English between 1998 and 2008 was included in the review.
Study selection: Based on the inclusion criteria, 60 studies were selected.
Data extraction: Study contents were analyzed with the 2 research questions in mind.
Data synthesis: Existing research was organized into 1 of 3 tables based on the question answered. Nineteen articles addressed the first question, 24 addressed the second, and 17 addressed both.
Conclusions: Six needs were identified for parents who had an infant in the neonatal intensive care unit: (a) accurate information and inclusion in the infant's care, (b) vigilant watching-over and protecting the infant, (c) contact with the infant, (d) being positively perceived by the nursery staff, (e) individualized care, and (f) a therapeutic relationship with the nursing staff. Four nursing behaviors were identified to assist parents in meeting these needs: (a) emotional support, (b) parent empowerment, (c) a welcoming environment with supportive unit policies, and (d) parent education with an opportunity to practice new skills through guided participation.