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The clinical, operational, and financial worlds of neonatal palliative care: A focused ethnography

  • Jackie Williams-Reade (a1), Angela L. Lamson (a2), Sharon M. Knight (a2), Mark B. White (a2), Sharon M. Ballard (a2) and Priti P. Desai (a2)...



Due to multiple issues, integrated interdisciplinary palliative care teams in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) may be difficult to access, sometimes fail to be implemented, or provide inconsistent or poorly coordinated care. When implementing an effective institution-specific neonatal palliative care program, it is critical to include stakeholders from the clinical, operational, and financial worlds of healthcare. In this study, researchers sought to gain a multidisciplinary perspective into issues that may impact the implementation of a formal neonatal palliative care program at a tertiary regional academic medical center.


In this focused ethnography, the primary researcher conducted semistructured interviews that explored the perspectives of healthcare administrators, finance officers, and clinicians about neonatal palliative care. The perspectives of 39 study participants informed the identification of institutional, financial, and clinical issues that impact the implementation of neonatal palliative care services at the medical center and the planning process for a formal palliative care program on behalf of neonates and their families.


Healthcare professionals described experiences that influenced their views on neonatal palliative care. Key themes included: (a) uniqueness of neonatal palliative care, (b) communication and conflict among providers, (c) policy and protocol discrepancies, and (d) lack of administrative support.

Significance of results:

The present study highlighted several areas that are challenging in the provision of neonatal palliative care. Our findings underscored the importance of recognizing and procuring resources needed simultaneously from the clinical, operational, and financial worlds in order to implement and sustain a successful neonatal palliative care program.


Corresponding author

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Jackie Williams-Reade, Director of Medical Family Therapy, Loma Linda University, 11065 Campus Street, Loma Linda, California 92350. E-mail:


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The clinical, operational, and financial worlds of neonatal palliative care: A focused ethnography

  • Jackie Williams-Reade (a1), Angela L. Lamson (a2), Sharon M. Knight (a2), Mark B. White (a2), Sharon M. Ballard (a2) and Priti P. Desai (a2)...


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