NICU nurses' lived experience: caring for infants with neonatal abstinence syndrome

Adv Neonatal Care. 2012 Oct;12(5):281-5. doi: 10.1097/ANC.0b013e3182677bc1.


Purpose: The primary aim of this qualitative methods study was to describe the lived experiences of neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) nurses with ethical and morally challenging issues.

Subjects: The target population for the study was registered nurses working in the NICU. Interviews were completed with 16 nurses from 1 hospital.

Design: A phenomenological method design was used to describe NICU nurses' lived experiences with ethical and moral issues encountered in the NICU.

Methods: After obtaining signed consent, the principal investigator interviewed all participants, using a semistructured interview guide consisting of open-ended questions.

Main outcomes: Ethical and moral distress related to neonatal abstinence syndrome was the predominant outcome.

Principal results: Caring for infants, coping with families, and discharging infants home were the major concerns voiced by nurses in this study.

Conclusions: Nurses in this study struggled with issues of beneficence and nonmaleficence and were not aware of scientific evidence that guides methadone management of pregnant women.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Clinical Competence
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal
  • Intensive Care, Neonatal / ethics
  • Intensive Care, Neonatal / methods
  • Intensive Care, Neonatal / standards
  • Moral Obligations
  • Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome* / etiology
  • Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome* / nursing
  • Neonatal Nursing* / ethics
  • Neonatal Nursing* / methods
  • Nurses* / psychology
  • Nurses* / standards
  • Nursing Assessment
  • Opiate Substitution Treatment / methods
  • Opiate Substitution Treatment / nursing
  • Patient Discharge
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / nursing*
  • Professional-Family Relations
  • Substance-Related Disorders* / complications
  • Substance-Related Disorders* / nursing
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Workforce