Using parent metaphors for learning about the neonatal care experience: an interpretive perspective

Julia Petty, Joy Jarvis, Rebecca Thomas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
69 Downloads (Pure)


This study focuses on how metaphors are used by parents who have had a premature baby to describe their neonatal care experience and how these can contribute to empathic learning of health professionals. In health, metaphors are commonly used to communicate and explain difficult topics. When patients tell their story, metaphor can be a means of expression from which we can learn about their experience of illness or hospitalisation. Limited research exits on how metaphor can improve our understanding of parent’s emotional experience in neonatal care and subsequently inform education in this field. Employing narrative inquiry within an interpretive, constructivist paradigm, 20 narrative interviews with 23 parents of premature babies were analysed using a process of metaphor identification. Findings revealed common metaphors used to describe experience. Metaphor clusters used by parents in order of frequency were journeying, altered reality, darkness, breaking, connections, fighting, salvation and being on the edge. Parents widely used compelling and emotive metaphors to describe and express both difficult and challenging times as well as progression forward. Metaphors serve as a powerful way for health professionals to learn about the emotional experiences of parents and potentially enhance their empathic understanding.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Child Health Care
Early online date12 Sept 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Sept 2019


  • Emotions
  • metaphors
  • narrative pedagogy
  • neonatal care
  • parent experience


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