Mother-clinician discussions in the neonatal intensive care unit: agree to disagree?

J Perinatol. 2013 Apr;33(4):278-81. doi: 10.1038/jp.2012.103. Epub 2012 Aug 16.


Objective: To compare mothers' and clinicians' understanding of an infant's illness and perceptions of discussion quality in the neonatal intensive care unit.

Study design: English-speaking mothers with an infant admitted to the intensive care unit for at least 48 h were interviewed using a semi-structured survey. The clinician whom the mother had spoken to and identified was also surveyed. Interviews were audiotaped and transcribed.

Result: A total of 101 mother-clinician pairs were interviewed. Most mothers (89%) and clinicians (92%) felt that their discussions had gone well. Almost all mothers could identify one of their infant's diagnoses (100%) and treatments (93.4%). Mothers and clinicians disagreed on infant illness severity 45% of the time. The majority of mothers (62.5%) who disagreed with clinician estimate of infant illness severity believed their infant to be less sick than indicated by the clinician.

Conclusion: Mother-clinician satisfaction with communication does not ensure mother-clinician agreement about an infant's medical status.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Attitude to Health
  • Consumer Behavior*
  • Critical Illness / psychology
  • Critical Illness / therapy
  • Dissent and Disputes
  • Female
  • Health Literacy
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal
  • Intensive Care, Neonatal* / methods
  • Intensive Care, Neonatal* / psychology
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Patient Acuity*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Social Perception
  • Workforce