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EMDR to minimise the development of PTSD on the NICU: a feasibility study

   School of Nursing and Midwifery

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  Dr Breidge Boyle , Dr Derek McLaughlin, Prof Mark Tomlinson  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project


The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) is a very stressful environment where up to 70% of parents may develop post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In a current study we e are estimating the prevalence of PTSD in parents of infants requiring care in the neonatal units in Northern Ireland and trialing Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) as a “rescue” therapy in those who show symptoms. The World Health Organisation increasingly advocate using EMDR as a “first aid” rather than a rescue treatment, designed to prevent the development of PTSD in stressful situations.


To design an EMDR based intervention for parents whose infants are admitted to NICU, and test the feasibility of using it with parents in a single NICU in Northern Ireland.


A sequential mixed methods study, where the feasibility of using a simple EMDR based intervention with parents whose baby is likely to be on NICU for more than one month. Pre and post testing for PTSD will be carried out. A qualitative evaluation of the acceptability of the intervention will follow.

Phase 1

 The student, an EMDR practitioner (training is available to anyone with a suitable background who is not already a trained practitioner), will design a simple, evidence based EMDR intervention to use with parents while their infant is being treated on NICU.

Phase 2

Using validated tools to quantify their symptoms before and after, to implement the intervention on a sample of approximately 20 - 30 parents (Mothers and fathers) on a single NICU will be recruited. Participants will be retested for PTSD on discharge and again when they have been home for 4-6 weeks.

Phase 3

Semi structured interviews will be carried out to explore the experience of receiving EMDR as a participant. Focus groups will be held with staff to explore the acceptability of this therapy on the units and how the intervention can be used in the future.

Anticipated contribution

The findings will contribute our knowledge of techniques to minimise the development of symptomatic psychological trauma in this vulnerable group.

For further information, please contact Dr Breidge Boyle: [Email Address Removed]

Funding Notes

Funded by the Department for the Economy (DfE). To be considered eligible candidates must have been ordinarily resident in the UK for the full 3 year period prior to the start of the studentship and you must be ordinarily resident in Northern Ireland on the first day of the start of the studentship. For further information about eligibility criteria please refer to the DfE Postgraduate Studentship Terms and Conditions Full eligibility criteria:
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