Regional follow up of late preterm neonatal intensive care graduates
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Regional follow up of late preterm neonatal intensive care graduates

Jackie Doran Postdoctoral research fellow, Research unit, at the School of Nursing and Midwifery, Queen’s University, Belfast
Jenny E McGowan Postdoctoral research assistant, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Queen’s University, Belfast
Fiona Alderdice Director of research, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Queen’s University, Belfast
Emma McCall Project manager, Neonatal Intensive Care Outcomes Research & Evaluation Group, at the School of Nursing and Midwifery, Queen’s University, Belfast
Stanley Craig Chair, Neonatal Intensive Care Outcomes Research & Evaluation Group, Royal Maternity Hospital, Belfast
John Jenkins Honorary senior lecturer, Child health at the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences, Queen’s University, Belfast

Aim To guide researchers who are contemplating embarking on research by discussing the methodological challenges encountered in a retrospective follow-up study of three-year-old, late preterm infants (LPIs) who received neonatal intensive care (NIC) in Northern Ireland in 2006.

Background The importance of effective research examining the longer term outcomes of infants admitted to NIC has received increasing recognition. Follow-up cohort and longitudinal studies have grown in number globally, yet the research methodology relating to follow up of NIC graduates is unclear.

Data sources Neonatal Intensive Care Outcomes and Research Evaluation (NICORE) database; maternity unit delivery records.

Review methods This is a reflective-practice methodology paper.

Discussion This paper highlights the methodological challenges of conducting retrospective follow-up research, from the initial planning stages through to the collection of data from the children, including identification of infants from a retrospective database, ethical issues, child-safety concerns and recruitment challenges.

Conclusion The important lessons learned from this study were that:

Input from a multidisciplinary team is central to the success of the study.

Protocols and guidelines should be in place before the study to ensure that problems are dealt with quickly.

A realistic timeframe for each phase and ongoing monitoring of recruitment rates are essential.

Implications for research/practice This paper creates an awareness of potential issues that may arise in follow-up research with NIC graduates. The paper also offers practical and effective examples of dealing with these issues, helping to ensure the smooth running of an ethical, professionally conducted, methodologically sound and clinically relevant follow-up study.

Nurse Researcher. 19, 4, 37-43. doi: 10.7748/nr2012.07.19.4.37.c9223

Peer review

This article has been subject to double blind peer review

Conflict of interest

None declared

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