Communication between neonatologists and parents when prognosis is uncertain

Laura L. Drach, Debra A. Hansen, Tracy M. King, Erica M.S. Sibinga

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Objective: When an infant’s prognosis is uncertain, communication between neonatologists and parents surrounding goals of care and decision-making can be challenging. This qualitative study explored communication between neonatologists and parents to discover qualities which may enhance or impede parent–clinician partnership under such difficult circumstances. Study design: Guided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Patient Centered Communication framework, semi-structured individual interviews were conducted and analyzed regarding neonatologist and parent perceptions of their communication. Subjects consisted of nine dyads of neonatologists and English-speaking parents whose infant had an uncertain prognosis. Results: Parents were overall satisfied with neonatologists’ communications concerning their infant’s uncertain trajectory. Nonetheless, both experienced challenges and distress during communication, impeding collaboration and engagement. Conclusions: Families and neonatologists value principles of patient centered communication but report challenges implementing this practice. Incorporating a multidisciplinary approach in settings of prognostic uncertainty to foster patient centered communication, may enhance communication surrounding NICU care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1412-1422
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Perinatology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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