Parents' Perspectives on Navigating the Work of Speaking Up in the NICU

Audrey Lyndon, Kirsten Wisner, Carrie Holschuh, Kelly M. Fagan, Linda S. Franck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective To describe parents' perspectives and likelihood of speaking up about safety concerns in the NICU and identify barriers and facilitators to parents speaking up. Design Exploratory, qualitatively driven, mixed-methods design. Setting A 50-bed U.S. academic medical center, open-bay NICU. Participants Forty-six parents completed questionnaires, 14 of whom were also interviewed. Methods Questionnaires, interviews, and observations with parents of newborns in the NICU were used. The qualitative investigation was based on constructivist grounded theory. Quantitative measures included ratings and free-text responses about the likelihood of speaking up in response to a hypothetical scenario about lack of clinician hand hygiene. Qualitative and quantitative analyses were integrated in the final interpretation. Results Most parents (75%) rated themselves likely or very likely to speak up in response to lack of hand hygiene; 25% of parents rated themselves unlikely to speak up in the same situation. Parents engaged in a complex process of Navigating the work of speaking up in the NICU that entailed learning the NICU, being deliberate about decisions to speak up, and at times choosing silence as a safety strategy. Decisions about how and when to speak up were influenced by multiple factors including knowing my baby, knowing the team, having a defined pathway to voice concerns, clinician approachability, clinician availability and friendliness, and clinician responsiveness. Conclusion To engage parents as full partners in safety, clinicians need to recognize the complex social and personal dimensions of the NICU experience that influence parents' willingness to speak up about their safety concerns.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)716-726
Number of pages11
JournalJOGNN - Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, and Neonatal Nursing
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2017


  • communication
  • neonatal intensive care
  • parents
  • patient safety

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics
  • Critical Care
  • Maternity and Midwifery


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