The ethics of family integrated care in the NICU: Improving care for families without causing harm

Semin Perinatol. 2022 Apr;46(3):151528. doi: 10.1016/j.semperi.2021.151528. Epub 2021 Nov 9.


The philosophy of care in Neonatal Intensive care Units (NICU) has changed with increasing integration of families. We examined parents' and clinicians' perspective about Family Integrated Care (FiCare) in our quaternary NICU. We found that parents and clinicians reported many benefits for families. They were all enthusiastic about FiCare for non-medical items such as changing diapers and skin-to-skin care; for more medical items, such as presenting at rounds, being present during resuscitation or procedures, most physicians wished for more parental involvement, more than other professionals, even parents. All parents described how FiCare benefited them, had empowered them, helped them feel like parents and become a family; but several parents, who could not participate as much or did not want to assume clinical roles, reported feeling guilty. Having a flexible, yet transparent FiCare philosophy is key, as opposed to having homogeneous goals. For example, an aim to have all parents present at rounds in a quality improvement initiative can cause harm to some families. We suggest how to ethically improve FiCare in the best interest of families while minimizing harms. It is important for FiCare not to be "Family Imposed Care." Optimizing FiCare can only be done when parents' priorities guide our actions, while also keeping in mind clinicians' perspectives and respecting the reality of each NICU.

MeSH terms

  • Delivery of Health Care, Integrated*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal*
  • Parents
  • Quality Improvement