The attitudes of neonatal nurses towards extremely preterm infants

J Adv Nurs. 2012 Aug;68(8):1768-79. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2648.2011.05865.x. Epub 2011 Nov 3.


Aim: The paper is a report of a study of the attitudes of neonatal nurses towards extremely preterm infants.

Background: Alongside advancing survival at extremely preterm gestational ages, ethical debates concerning the provision of invasive care have proliferated in light of the high morbidity. Despite nurses being the healthcare professionals who work closest with the infant and their family, their potential influence is usually ignored when determining how parents come to decisions about future care for their extremely premature infant.

Methods: A Q methodology was employed to explore the attitudes of neonatal nurses towards caring for extremely preterm infants. Data were collected between 2007 and 2008 and analysed using PQMethod and Card Content Analysis.

Results: Thirty-six nurses from six neonatal units in the United Kingdom participated. Although there was consensus around the professional role of the nurse, when faced with the complexities of neonatal nursing three distinguishing factors emerged: the importance of parental choice in decision-making, the belief that technology should be used to assess response to treatment, and the belief that healthcare professionals should undertake difficult decisions.

Conclusion: Neonatal nurses report unexpected difficulties in upholding their professionally defined role through highly complex and ever varied decision-making processes. Recognition of individual attitudes to the care of extremely preterm infants and the role of the family in the face of difficult decisions should facilitate more open communication between the nurse and the parents and improve the experience of both the nurse and the family during these emotional situations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Decision Making*
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Infant, Extremely Premature / psychology*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intensive Care, Neonatal / ethics
  • Intensive Care, Neonatal / psychology
  • Life Support Care / ethics
  • Life Support Care / psychology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neonatal Nursing / ethics*
  • Nurse's Role / psychology*
  • Nurses / psychology*
  • Nursing Research
  • Parents / psychology
  • Principal Component Analysis
  • Professional-Family Relations
  • Q-Sort
  • United Kingdom
  • Young Adult