the nurse has a key role in involving parents in the care of newborns in the neonatal intensive care unit. the aim of this study was to comprehend how the nurses experience the care provided to newborns in the presence of the parents. this is a qualitative study using social phenomenology, with the participation of seven nurses, interviewed between january and february 2009. the nurses perceived the needs of parents; had positive expectations regarding the care provided and acknowledge themselves to be the link between them, helping them to live with the hospitalized child. however, in emergencies, the nurses had difficulties in caring for the neonate in the presence of the parents. the nurses positively evaluated the presence of parents in the neonatal intensive care unit, involving them permanently in the care of the newborn. the study evokes the emergence of a care context (nurse/neonate/parents) that precedes the proximity between the subjects and the demands presented by them.