Introduction Occupational therapy has a recognised role in the provision of services within neonatal intensive care, however there has been limited exploration of the concept of parenting as an occupation as a means of supporting parental role development and family-centred care within the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
Methods The research included three phases. The first phase involved the completion of a meta-ethnographic synthesis of existing qualitative research relating to parenting in NICU. The second phase involved interviews with parents of preterm infants, and the final phase involved a focus group of occupational therapists working in NICU affiliated services.
Results/discussion Completion of the meta-ethnographic synthesis confirmed that the personal and environmental experiences that enable parents to participate in occupations associated with parenting. The emergent themes provide a sense of a disrupted journey in the development of the occupational role of parent. The findings from the parent interviews confirmed the resonance of the synthesis results through the experiences of three individual families. Finally, the third phase of the study confirmed the plausibility of the findings within the clinical practice realm, and provided some preliminary suggestions for practice considerations.
Conclusion The staged, sequential approach used in this research promoted an increasingly in-depth understanding of the phenomenon of parenting occupations in the NICU. This study has added to the body of research by articulating the experiences of parents as they traverse the journey of the NICU experience and adapt to a re-visioned role of parents to their preterm infant.
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