University of Hertfordshire

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Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Child Health Care
Journal publication date15 Sep 2019
Early online date15 Sep 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 15 Sep 2019


Aims and objectives; The study focuses on how metaphors are used to describe and understand the parent’s emotional experience of having a premature baby and in turn, how these have informed creation of storytelling resources for learning within the neonatal field.Background; In health, metaphors are commonly used to communicate and explain difficult, sensitive topics. When patients tell their story and use metaphor, this can be one way to learn about their experience of illness or hospitalisation. Research in neonatal care is limited on this topic in relation to how metaphor can facilitate an understanding of parent’s emotional experience through neonatal care and inform learning resource development. Design; The study uses narrative inquiry within an interpretive, constructivist paradigm. Interpretation in this context means the discernment of meaning from narrative and the construction of stories based on parent experiences. Methods; Twenty narrative interviews with 23 parents of premature babies were completed. Thematic analysis based on Braun and Clarkes (2014) model was undertaken focusing on common metaphors used by parents to describe their experience under key themes. Results; Metaphor clusters commonly used by parents to describe both positive and negative experiences included: being in another world, being on the edge, travelling / journeying, conflict, darkness, institutionalisation, connecting and being saved.Conclusions; Within neonatal care, parents widely use powerful and emotive metaphors to describe and express both difficult and challenging times as well as progression forward. Metaphors serve as a compelling way for nurses and health professionals to try to understand emotional experiences of parents.Relevance to clinical practice; For empathic, person-centred care, teaching nurses and health professionals in neonatal care about parents’ emotional experiences is vital. The creative potential held by metaphor to educate others forms a basis for the development of stories as a powerful means of learning for practitioners.


© The Author(s) 2019

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