Parental presence in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) positively impacts infant development. Few studies have examined the impact of presence on parental distress. Alienation, or lack of trust in the healthcare team, may occur independently from other forms of distress. Increased parental presence was hypothesized to reduce alienation by allowing for more positive in-person interaction with hospital staff. Parents of infants born < 28 weeks or < 1000 grams were prospectively enrolled and completed several surveys measuring distress prior to discharge, including a novel hospital alienation questionnaire. Spearman correlation was used to compare distress measures and visitation rates of 68 mothers and 6 fathers. Alienation was rarely reported and was uncorrelated with other distress measures. Maternal presence was most strongly correlated with anxiety, though this was not statistically significant. Fathers who were more alienated were present in the NICU less and correlation between maternal and paternal alienation was strong. These results were not statistically significant, however. Though statistically significant results were not produced in this research, hospital alienation does appear to be a distinct concept that has been unstudied previously.

Experience Framework

This article is associated with the Patient, Family & Community Engagement lens of The Beryl Institute Experience Framework. (http://bit.ly/ExperienceFramework)