Family Integrated Care (FICare) in Level II Neonatal Intensive Care Units: study protocol for a cluster randomized controlled trial

Trials. 2017 Oct 10;18(1):467. doi: 10.1186/s13063-017-2181-3.


Background: Every year, about 15 million of the world's infants are born preterm (before 37 weeks gestation). In Alberta, the preterm birth rate was 8.7% in 2015, the second highest among Canadian provinces. Approximately 20% of preterm infants are born before 32 weeks gestation (early preterm), and require care in a Level III neonatal intensive care unit (NICU); 80% are born moderate (32 weeks and zero days [320/7] to 336/7 weeks) and late preterm (340/7 to 366/7 weeks), and require care in a Level II NICU. Preterm birth and experiences in the NICU disrupt early parent-infant relationships and induce parental psychosocial distress. Family Integrated Care (FICare) shows promise as a model of care in Level III NICUs. The purpose of this study is to evaluate length of stay, infant and maternal clinical outcomes, and costs following adaptation and implementation of FICare in Level II NICUs.

Methods: We will conduct a pragmatic, cluster randomized controlled trial (cRCT) in ten Alberta Level II NICUs allocated to one of two groups: FICare or standard care. The FICare Alberta model involves three theoretically-based, standardized components: information sharing, parenting education, and family support. Our sample size of 181 mother-infant dyads per group is based on the primary outcome of NICU length of stay, 80% participation, and 80% retention at follow-up. Secondary outcomes (e.g., infant clinical outcomes and maternal psychosocial distress) will be assessed shortly after admission to NICU, at discharge and 2 months corrected age. We will conduct economic analysis from two perspectives: the public healthcare payer and society. To understand the utility, acceptability, and impact of FICare, qualitative interviews will be conducted with a subset of mothers at the 2-month follow-up, and with hospital administrators and healthcare providers near the end of the study.

Discussion: Results of this pragmatic cRCT of FICare in Alberta Level II NICUs will inform policy decisions by providing evidence about the clinical effectiveness and costs of FICare.

Trial registration:, ID: NCT02879799 . Registered on 27 May 2016. Protocol version: 9 June 2016; version 2.

Keywords: Cost-effectiveness; Family integrated care; Infant; Nursing; Parenting education; Patient engagement; Premature; Randomized controlled trial.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Pragmatic Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Alberta
  • Clinical Protocols
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Delivery of Health Care, Integrated* / economics
  • Family Therapy / economics
  • Family Therapy / methods*
  • Gestational Age
  • Health Care Costs
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Infant, Premature*
  • Information Dissemination
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal* / economics
  • Intensive Care, Neonatal / economics
  • Intensive Care, Neonatal / methods*
  • Mother-Child Relations
  • Mothers / education
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Premature Birth / diagnosis
  • Premature Birth / physiopathology
  • Premature Birth / psychology
  • Premature Birth / therapy*
  • Professional-Family Relations
  • Research Design
  • Stress, Psychological / diagnosis
  • Stress, Psychological / prevention & control
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome

Associated data