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Better Parent-Physician Communication Needed in NICU

Last Updated: August 17, 2012.

Although most mothers of infants treated in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) report that their discussions with NICU physicians have gone well, nearly half disagree with the doctor's assessment of the severity of their infant's illness, according to research published online Aug. 16 in the Journal of Perinatology.

FRIDAY, Aug. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Although most mothers of infants treated in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) report that their discussions with NICU physicians have gone well, nearly half disagree with the doctor's assessment of the severity of their infant's illness, according to research published online Aug. 16 in the Journal of Perinatology.

Stephanie de Wit, M.D., of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, and colleagues surveyed 101 mothers of infants in the NICU and their physicians to compare perceptions on the severity of an infant's illness and satisfaction with communication between mother and physician.

The researchers found that, although 89 percent of mothers and 92 percent of clinicians rated their discussions favorably, mothers and clinicians disagreed on the severity of infant illness nearly half of the time (45 percent). Nearly two-thirds of mothers (62.5 percent) perceived their infants to be less sick than indicated by the physician, despite the fact that they could nearly always identify their infant's diagnoses (100 percent) and treatments (93.4 percent).

"When it comes to discussing a critically ill newborn's condition, parents and doctors often seem to be speaking the same, yet different, languages," de Wit said in a statement. "Poor understanding of a baby's prognosis can lead to maternal frustration and dissatisfaction with the treatment plan, which ultimately undermines the goal of teamwork between families and clinicians."

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