Sometimes it takes more than one village – parenting a premature infant in a rural area

Luke Wakely1, Kym Rae2, Diana Keatinge3

1The University of Newcastle Department of Rural Health, 114-148 Johnston Street Tamworth, NSW, 2340, luke.wakely@newcastle.edu,au
2The University of Newcastle Department of Rural Health & Gomeroi gaaynggal Program 2/1 Hinkler Street Tamworth NSW 2340, kym.rae@newcastle.edu.au
3The University of Newcastle School of Nursing and Midwifery, University Drive, Callaghan, NSW, 2308, dk399@outlook.com

 Background

Families living in rural Australia are at higher risk of premature birth and yet have poorer access to health services. A range of allied health professionals are often required to support premature infants and their families. Yet there are few accounts of the experience of parenting premature infants in rural Australia to inform them of these families’ particular needs. This paper examines in-depth the experience of parenting a premature infant in a rural area.

Methods

Parents or carers of premature infants who resided rurally in NSW participated in semi-structured interviews about parenting a premature infant. Analysis is ongoing and was conducted using phenomenological methodology.

Results

To date, four themes have emerged from interviews with sixteen rurally residing participants (three fathers and thirteen mothers). Disrupted life described the sudden disruption the birth or a change in the child’s health had on these families’ lives. Umbilical dislocation described the disconnected sense of flailing usually occurring soon after a traumatic disruption. Fragile connections detailed parents developing tentative connections with their child, meanwhile developing new connections with health professionals, family and friends. Settled perspective describes parents’ adjustment to life as the parent of a premature infant.

Discussion

Parents of premature infants residing in rural Australia have the extra stressors of travelling long-distances to access specialised services. Further families who are transported for care in a metropolitan centre struggle when returning to rural health services and have to parent their premature infant often with complex health issues and fewer local support services.

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