Understanding parents’ emotional experiences for neonatal education: A narrative, interpretive approach

Julia Petty, Joy Jarvis, Rebecca Thomas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
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Aims and objectives: To explore the emotional experiences of parents who have had premature babies to inform and educate neonatal nurses and health professionals in this field. Background: Parents find the neonatal unit a daunting and unfamiliar place leading to anxiety, uncertainty and fear about the future of their baby. Parents have significant emotional needs in relation to assisting them to cope with their neonatal experience. In line with a family-centred approach to neonatal education, it is essential to teach health professionals about the emotional impact of neonatal care based on an appreciation of the parent experience. Design: A narrative-based, interpretive approach was undertaken in line with constructivist learning theory. Methods: Twenty narrative interviews took place, with a total of 23 parents of premature babies. Following core story creation to create coherent stories from the raw transcripts, thematic analysis of the narrative constructs using the principles of Braun and Clarke's, International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-Being, 2014, 9, 1, framework was undertaken. The study methods were compliant with the consolidated criteria for reporting qualitative research (COREQ). Findings: Thematic analysis revealed key themes relating to the following: parents’ emotions through the whole neonatal experience, feelings towards the baby, the environment, the staff and the transitions through the different phases of neonatal care. Both negative and positive experiences were reported. Conclusion: Understanding the emotional experience from the parent's perspective, following birth of their premature baby, informs empathic, family-centred teaching and learning within the neonatal education arena. Relevance to clinical practice: Students and health professionals alike can learn what is important in the delivery of care that addresses the emotional needs of parents and families. Educators can use narratives and key messages from parents, both negative and positive, to teach family-centred principles to nurses and health professionals as a core component of a narrative curricula and potentially to enhance empathy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1911-1924
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Clinical Nursing
Issue number9-10
Early online date30 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - 28 Feb 2019


  • emotional experience
  • empathic learning
  • interpretive inquiry
  • narrative
  • parent narratives


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