The myth of the miracle baby: How neonatal nurses interpret media accounts of babies of extreme prematurity

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Journal Article
Nursing Inquiry, 2015, 22 (3), pp. 273 - 281
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© 2015 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Improved life sustaining technology in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) has resulted in an increased probability of survival in extremely premature babies. Miracle baby stories in the popular press are a regular occurrence and these reports are often the first source from which the general public learn about extremely premature babies. The research from which this paper is drawn sought to explore the care-giving and ethical dilemmas of neonatal nurses when caring for extremely premature babies 24 weeks gestation and less. This current paper aims to outline the views of neonatal nurses on miracle baby stories in the media. Data were collected via a questionnaire to 760 Australian neonatal nurses with 414 returned, representing a response rate of 54.4%. Narrative was collected from semi-structured interviews with 24 experienced neonatal nurses in NSW, Australia. A qualitative approach utilising thematic analysis was utilised to analyse the data. The theme the myth of the miracle baby is seen as generating myths and unrealistic expectations on the part of vulnerable families and the public. Neonatal nurses, as the primary caregivers for tiny babies and their families, viewed popular media publications with suspicion, believing published reports to be incomplete, inaccurate and biased towards the positive.
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