Date of Conferral
Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
Numerous scholars have reported that inconsistent incubator humidity in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) requires attention. Evidence synthesis was needed to assist the identification of optimal incubator humidity levels and duration to decrease transepidermal water loss (TEWL) and the potential for infection. The purpose of this doctoral project was to appraise and synthesize the evidence of preterm outcomes related to incubator humidity. The practice-focused question addressed what patient outcomes were impacted by incubator humidity level and duration in premature infants < 32 0/7 weeks cared for in the NICU. The foundation of this project was the Joanna Briggs Institute method for systematic reviews. Mefford’s theory of health promotion for the preterm infant was used to address the wholeness of the preterm infant’s body system. Evidence was classified using the Johns Hopkins evidence-based practice levels and quality of evidence. The search was conducted in 8 databases, and citation searching was used to identify 340 articles, 12 of which met the inclusion criteria. The evidence demonstrates that the practice of incubator humidity is warranted; however, it does not come without risks. Microbial growth was increased in high levels of incubator humidity. Unnecessary TEWL was prevented by lowering high levels of incubator humidity after the 1st week, improving skin barrier formation. Incubator humidity of 60%–70% in the 1st week was effective in preventing TEWL in infants born ≥ 26 weeks; however, future research is needed for infants < 26 weeks. When optimal levels and duration of incubator humidity are achieved, positive social change will occur from the improved outcomes of the smallest neonatal patients.