The lived experience of fathers of preterm infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit: A systematic review of qualitative studies

Livio Provenzi, Elena Santoro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aims and objectives: To systematically review the experience of fathers of preterm infants hospitalised in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Background: Family-centred care is more and more acknowledged in Neonatal Intensive Care Units, advocating for active engagement of both parents in the care journey. Nonetheless, fathers' Neonatal Intensive Care Unit experience has received limited research attention. Design: Systematic review of qualitative studies. Methods: Four electronic databases (CINHAL, ISI Web of Science, PubMed, Scopus) were explored and studies published between 2000-2014 were included. Preferred Reporting Item for Systematic Reviews and Meta-analysis (PRISMA) and Joanna Briggs Institute (JBI) Critical Appraisal Tool for Qualitative Studies guidelines were adopted. Key themes were extracted and synthesised. Results: Five main themes resuming fathers' experience of preterm birth and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit stay were identified from 14 studies. Themes were: emotional roller-coaster, paternal needs, coping strategies, self-representation and caregiving engagement. These dimensions were found to be dynamically shaped across three critical turning points: preterm birth, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit stay and at home. Conclusions: Neonatal Intensive Care Unit fathers of preterm infants experience ambivalence, a set of different needs and coping strategies. They modify their self-representations along the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit journey and needs specific nursing support and intervention to sustain caregiving engagement and transition to parenthood. Relevance to clinical practice: A systematic and deepened understanding of preterms' fathers lived experience in Neonatal Intensive Care Unit would be helpful to inform nursing practice. Specific action priorities are suggested within the frame of family-centred care.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1784-1794
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Clinical Nursing
Issue number13-14
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1 2015


  • Fathers
  • Neonatal intensive care unit
  • Parental experience
  • Preterm infants
  • Qualitative research
  • Systematic review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)
  • Medicine(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'The lived experience of fathers of preterm infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit: A systematic review of qualitative studies'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this