How nurses assist parents regarding life support decisions for extremely premature infants

J Obstet Gynecol Neonatal Nurs. Mar-Apr 2010;39(2):147-58. doi: 10.1111/j.1552-6909.2010.01105.x.


Objective: To describe nurse behaviors that assisted parents to make life-support decisions for an extremely premature infant before and after the infant's birth.

Design: Qualitative, longitudinal, collective case study where interviews were done pre- and postnatally and medical chart data were collected.

Setting: Interviews were conducted face-to-face in a private room in the hospital, in the mother's home, or over the telephone.

Participants: A sample of 40 cases (40 mothers, 14 fathers, 42 physicians, 17 obstetric nurses, 6 neonatal nurses, and 6 neonatal nurse practitioners) was recruited from three hospitals that provided high-risk perinatal care. Parents were at least 18 years of age, English speaking, and had participated in a prenatal discussion with a physician regarding treatment decisions for their infant due to threatened preterm delivery. Physicians and nurses were those identified by parents who had spoken to them about life-support treatment decisions for the infant.

Methods: Using a semistructured interview guide, a total of 203 interviews were conducted (137 prenatal, 51 postnatal, and 15 end-of-life). For this analysis, all coded data related to the nurse's role were analyzed and summarized.

Results: Parents and nurses described several nurse behaviors: providing emotional support, giving information, and meeting the physical care needs of mothers, infants, and fathers. Physicians' description of the nurse behaviors focused on the way nurses provided emotional support and gave information.

Conclusions: Nurses play a critical role in assisting parents surrounding life-support decisions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Attitude to Health
  • Decision Making*
  • Female
  • Helping Behavior
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature*
  • Intensive Care, Neonatal / psychology
  • Life Support Care / psychology*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Neonatal Nursing / methods
  • Nurse's Role / psychology*
  • Nursing Methodology Research
  • Parents / education
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Professional-Family Relations*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Social Support
  • Surveys and Questionnaires