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First Advisor

Christine Spence


Having a child spend time in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit is documented as a stressful experience for caregivers. Previous literature documents caregivers’ difficulties navigating the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, showing that this problem has persisted for close to 20 years. Early Intervention can provide benefits to infants born prematurely, who may be more at risk for developmental delays and since the goal of Early Intervention is to provide services that help families in their daily lives, it has benefits for caregivers as well. Yet, Early Intervention enrollment remains low across the state of Virginia. This study using a qualitative research design to examine how caregivers describe their experience in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and what services were accessed for their child through infancy and toddlerhood. The data from this study shows that caregivers’ experiences are impacted by the hospital logistics, the transition to home, medical experiences and not being able to identify who is responsible for supporting parent mental health during this time. While this study has limited data on access of services, it does have implications for how future research can address this limitation. The findings of this study offer insight in how practitioners can help support caregivers during this challenging time.


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