Families' views upon experiencing change in the neonatal intensive care unit environment: from the 'baby barn' to the private room

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Parents whose newborns were cared for in the old neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) environment and then moved to the new NICU environment describe their impressions of the impact upon their infant's care, information access and support, of the two care settings.


To determine the perceptions of parents in the NICU regarding noise, light, space, access to caregivers and personal privacy as they experience both old and new NICU environments in the continuum of care for their infant.


In the first 9 months after moving into the new private room NICU, a convenience sampling of parents was voluntarily administered a 20-question Likert scale survey addressing length of stay (LOS) in the respective NICU environment, environmental stimuli, access to caregivers, access to information and personal privacy. Scores reflect frequency of perceptions as never = 1, sometimes = 2, usually = 3 and always = 4.


The responses of 53 parents are reported. This represents 10% of admissions to the private room NICU during the 9-month sampling time. Fifty-nine percent had LOS of ≤ 14 days in the old NICU before moving; 76% had LOS ≤ 14 days in the new NICU before completing this survey. Median scores for the major content themes are reported (New:Old). Responses suggest that in the new vs old design, parents feel they are able to spend more time with their infant (4:3); have more privacy (4:2) and space for their personal items (4:1); experience less overstimulation with noise and light (1:2); had comparable access to their infant's nurse (4:4) but greater access to their infant's doctor (3:2); and felt comparably informed (4:4) but better supported by the entire team (4:3).


The new private room NICU is perceived by parents to offer an enhanced environment that is more spacious and less overstimulating for their infant and themselves. Access to professional caregivers, information and overall support appears to be improved in the new environment despite a larger overall NICU area, floor plan and structural layout.

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