Aim To explore communication between parents and clinicians following neonatal ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) at term of the brain of babies born before 33 weeks gestation.
Background Part of a larger study of neonatal brain imaging in which parents were randomised to receive prognostic information based upon MRI or ultrasound findings (ePrime study).
Method With parental consent recordings of discussions with clinicians were made following MRI and ultrasound assessment. Parents were told what the scan showed and the baby’s predicted prognosis using a topic-guide to ensure essential information was given. Recordings were transcribed in order to describe the content and style of communication between clinicians and parents. Thirty-five recordings were analysed using a specifically developed framework exploring how results were communicated and parental responses. The framework was based on preliminary analysis of the first 24 recordings and frameworks from other studies of interviewing and information-giving in healthcare. Parents were offered a copy of the recording.
Findings Essential information was given in most of the discussions and parity between clinicians was demonstrated. Clinicians used a range of strategies to facilitate parental understanding and engagement. These included sign-posting, use of analogies and open-ended questions, personalising information and responding to parents’ cues. Parents also used strategies to facilitate the discussion and further understanding which included spontaneously asking questions and relating information to their prior knowledge and experiences.
Conclusions The interviews represent a complex situation in which there is a compromise between the needs of individual parents and information-giving requirements for clinicians.
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