Identification of parental stressors in an Australian neonatal intensive care unit
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Aims: This study explored the types and levels of stress in parents with infants in a South Australian NICU, and identifies the psychometric properties of the Parental Stressor Scale: Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (PSS:NICU) in this Australian setting. Background: It is well recognised that many parents experience stress following a preterm birth and subsequent hospitalisation and separation from their baby or from the admission of a newborn infant to intensive care. Methods: This mixed method study used a parental stress assessment tool, a maternal needs inventory, and a measure of the degree of required therapeutic interventions for the neonate to assess types and levels of parental stress. Quantitative and qualitative data was collected and analysed using descriptive statistics and thematic analysis respectively. Results: Moderate stress levels in parents (n=40), predominantly related to alteration of their parental role, and the appearance and behaviours of their infant was demonstrated. These findings are further supported by a qualitative analysis and maternal needs inventory assessment which suggests the need for good communication, information sharing and consistent and empathetic staff practices. Conclusion: These findings suggest the need to develop local interventions to reduce stress and enhance parents’ abilities and understanding of their infant. Furthermore, despite the low number of participants, the PSS:NICU subscales were found to be reliable. Implications for Practice: Neonatal nurses working in a NICU environment need to be aware of the common situations which cause stress in parents, and develop skills in communicating with and supporting parents through this traumatic period.
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