Unit-Level Variations in Healthcare Professionals' Availability for Preterm Neonates <29 Weeks' Gestation: An International Survey

Neonatology. 2019;116(4):347-355. doi: 10.1159/000501801. Epub 2019 Oct 1.


Introduction: The availability of and variability in healthcare professionals in neonatal units in different countries has not been well characterized. Our objective was to identify variations in the healthcare professionals for preterm neonates in 10 national or regional neonatal networks participating in the International Network for Evaluating Outcomes (iNeo) of neonates.

Method: Online, pre-piloted questionnaires about the availability of healthcare professionals were sent to the directors of 390 tertiary neonatal units in 10 international networks: Australia/New Zealand, Canada, Finland, Illinois, Israel, Japan, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and Tuscany.

Results: Overall, 325 of 390 units (83%) responded. About half of the units (48%; 156/325) cared for 11-30 neonates/day and had team-based (43%; 138/325) care models. Neonatologists were present 24 h a day in 59% of the units (191/325), junior doctors in 60% (194/325), and nurse practitioners in 36% (116/325). A nurse-to-patient ratio of 1:1 for infants who are unstable and require complex care was used in 52% of the units (170/325), whereas a ratio of 1:1 or 1:2 for neonates requiring multisystem support was available in 59% (192/325) of the units. Availability of a respiratory therapist (15%, 49/325), pharmacist (40%, 130/325), dietitian (34%, 112/325), social worker (81%, 263/325), lactation consultant (45%, 146/325), parent buddy (6%, 19/325), or parents' resource personnel (11%, 34/325) were widely variable between units.

Conclusions: We identified variability in the availability and organization of the healthcare professionals between and within countries for the care of extremely preterm neonates. Further research is needed to associate healthcare workers' availability and outcomes.

Keywords: Dietitian; Neonate; Neonatologist; Nurse; Pharmacist; Preterm infant; Respiratory therapist.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Gestational Age
  • Health Personnel / organization & administration*
  • Health Services Accessibility / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Extremely Premature*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal / organization & administration*
  • Internationality
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Workforce / statistics & numerical data*