Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Mary Jo Grap


Neonatal Intensive Care Units have experienced profound advances in technology and treatment modalities over the last two decades. Infants born at the edge of viability are now surviving despite prolonged hospitalizations. These infants born preterm are prone to a high degree of stress from life sustaining and routine interventions. Much focus has been directed toward addressing noxious environmental factors such as noise, light, and infectious disease; however, little has been done to examine the stress experienced by the professional caregiver who work in these environments. Environmental press theory, which focuses on the interplay between human beings and their surroundings, is explored as a way to provide insight into understanding and mitigating the stress experienced by health care providers working in the newborn intensive care. A proposal for a research study with a cross-over design was approved to study the effect of “four handed care” on infants’ physiologic responses (oxygenation, heart rate, and stress) and behavioral responses (state, stress and defense, self-regulatory and approach behaviors) to and recovery from endotracheal suctioning when compared to routine care. Results of this study demonstrated no significant differences were noted when heart rate (HR) or oxygen saturation (SpO2) taken at baseline were compared to HR and SpO2 obtained during and after suctioning while in the routine care condition. In the four-handed care condition, mean SpO2 increased from pre-observation 95.49 to during observation saturation 97.75 (p = 0.001). Salivary cortisol did not differ between groups at baseline or post-suctioning. There was no significant difference in behavior state between the two conditions at any time point. More stress and defense behaviors were seen post-suctioning when infants received routine care as opposed to four-handed care (p = .001) and more self-regulatory behaviors were exhibited by infants during (p = .019) and after suctioning (p = .016) when receiving four-handed care as opposed to routine care. There was no statistical difference in the number of monitor call-backs post-suctioning. In conclusion, four-handed care during suctioning was associated with a decrease in stress and defense behaviors and an increase in self-regulatory behaviors. These findings, while based on a small sample, provide modest evidence that the four-handed care intervention for suctioning should receive further testing. Interventions such as four-handed care that are theoretically developmentally supportive of the sick preterm infant, need further research attention before recommending widespread adoption.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

December 2011

Included in

Nursing Commons