Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)



Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Masoud Ghaffari

Committee Members

Masoud Ghaffari, Sharon Loury, JoAnn Marrs, Carole Kenner


With increased advances in technology, the overall survival rates in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for premature infants at lower gestational ages, has also increased. Although premature infants survive at lower gestational ages, they are often discharged to home with unresolved medical issues. While the birth of a new baby for parents is a joyous occasion, they often have difficulty coping and transitioning into a parental role. Premature infants also have ongoing complications such as difficulty with feeding, developmental delays in growth, and long-term eye and respiratory complications. As a result of chronic health sequelae, premature infants require extensive utilization of hospital and community health resources. In addition, hospitals must coordinate between community resources, while preparing parents for specialized discharge teaching. Furthermore, individuals living in rural and underserved areas face unique challenges and barriers to access healthcare resources. An interpretive phenomenology study was conducted to bring insight and develop an understanding into how families perceive discharge readiness, accessing health care resources, and ability to cope at home after discharge from a Level III NICU located in Appalachia. Ten parents total were enrolled in the study and consisted of three couples, three married mothers, and two single mothers. Interviews were conducted over a period of six months and transcript analysis revealed development of major and minor themes. The studies overarching theme was Adapting to a New Family Roles, Finding Normalcy, which described parents experience of being prepared for discharge and their transition to home. Three major themes related to discharge readiness from detailed analysis included; 1) Riding out the storm, 2) Righting the ship, and 3) Safe port, finding solid ground. Subthemes that supported development of the major these were 1a) having the carpet pulled out from under me, 1b) things I lost, 1c) feel like an outsider, 1d) sink or swim, 2a) quest for knowledge, 2b) caring for me, care for my baby, 2c) customized learning, 3a) getting to know baby, 3b) becoming the expert, 3c) ongoing emotions, and 3d) adjusted parental role. Practice and research implications for discharge readiness include providing customized support for parents as they adjust to a new normal for their family, identify necessary resources, and become self-reliant once home.

Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access


Copyright by the authors.