Parent experiences in neonatal care

Exploring behavior, needs, and experiences of parents in different types of Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICU’s)

Group project Master Human-Technology Interaction
Client: Máxima medische centrum Velhoven (MMC) and Maastricht Universitair Medisch Centrum (MUMC)

Foto's open dag AZM Parent experiences in neonatal careB Parent experiences in neonatal careB3 Parent experiences in neonatal careB4


In this project it was investigated how the (often technical looking) environment is affecting the behavior, the experiences, and the needs over time of both fathers and mothers at different types of NICUs. To gain rich data for a longer period of time, a diary study was designed. Parents of infants at the NICU fill out a diary for two weeks and end-interviews were performed.

Since the state of mind of the parents is interdependent of the wellbeing of their baby, it is important that the environment supports the parents during their period of stay as much as possible. As previous studies were mainly quantitative survey research, it was of interest to gain more detailed qualitative information about specific behavior and experiences of parents at the NICU over a longer period of time. The focus was to what extent the environment had an influence on the specific behaviors, the experiences, and the needs of the parents at the NICU.
The NICUs that took part in this study are those of the Maastricht Universitair Medisch Centrum of Maastricht (MUMC) and the Máxima Medisch Centrum of Veldhoven (MMC). The NICU of the MUMC is a more traditional multi-patient, open bay ward, while the NICU of the MMC is recently rebuilt into single-patient rooms.

Results showed that the feelings of the parents at the NICU fluctuated between happy, proud and other positive emotions and feelings of guilt, insecurity and more negative emotions. By combining the results from the diaries with subsequent interviews, conclusions were given about the differences between fathers and mothers, differences in time and differences in types of NICUs.

It was concluded that no large differences between the fathers and mothers could be seen. Time is an important factor in the behavior, needs and experiences of the parents at the NICU. As the well-being of the baby mostly improves over the period of time, so does the well-being of the parent. Furthermore, after a period of time some form of habituation is influencing the parents behavior, needs and experiences.
There are clear differences between the types of NICUs, as in general the parents at the single-patient rooms seem more positive about the environment. In both NICUs the parents are accepting the environment as it is right now. For them the only thing that matters is the well-being of the child and therefore they do not expect anything from the environment as it is a hospital setting. Parents have a need for high quality nurses, which is fulfilled in both hospitals. Although the information supply in the open ward seems somewhat lower.


  • Qualitative research
  • Research on sensitive and personal information
  • Developing a specific research tool for this purpose
  • Grounded theory data analysis