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Deb Discenza interviews Geoff, a preemie born almost 40 years ago, and gets unique insight into his birth, his NICU stay, and life afterward.
Connecting with a family is a huge challenge for nurses as they are more focused on the technical aspects of caring for the premature infant in the NICU. In this column, the top ten things parents want to hear from nurses in a variety of scenarios help to provide insight into the patient family mind-set and how to best work with them.
NICU parents are stressed, and adding vaccinations into the discussion can cause resistance. Their baby is already enduring pain with the various interventions keeping him alive, so a parent is likely to balk at the very mention of vaccinations. Enter Mary Koslap-Petraco, DNP, PPCNP-BC, CPNP, FAANP, who works with parents all the time around this issue. I interviewed her about how to help “vaccine-hesitant” parents come around in complying with vaccinations while in the NICU.
As the parent of a premature infant, one of the biggest challenges I had in the NICU and at home into the school years was trying to reframe the preemie experience for my 30-week, 13-year-old daughter, Becky. Early on, a NICU nurse suggested we bring a book in to read to our daughter, and I seized upon that idea. It was such a normal thing for me to do, and I relished the opportunity. So began the ritual of reading to my daughter throughout each day in the NICU and then when she came home. When I heard about Andy Male’s new book, Go Preemies!, I was thrilled. I reached out to Andy Male and wanted to talk about the inspiration behind this special book. What I found out pleasantly surprised me.
In a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), babies are subjected to various noises. Despite best intentions, staff and visitors alike contribute to a significant amount of “noise pollution” in the unit. One father came up with a solution that is now implemented nationwide and is making a huge difference to the nerves and the brain development of our most vulnerable population—NICU babies.
Parents of premature babies are at high risk for postpartum depression and Posttraumatic stress disorder and need a lot of mental health support. Enter Parijat Deshpande, a mother who gave birth to her son in the 24th week and has a background in psychology and is now a health and wellness counselor. Parijat has a strong focus on perinatal wellness and helping parents of a preemie reduce their stress and increase the parent–child bond.
Opioid addiction and the NICU are common themes in the news. Yet, we never hear from the mothers in these situations. I interviewed Victoria, a Mom who had an addiction and had desperately wanted to be clean. She got pregnant and was desperate to help her baby not have the same affliction. Enter the ICON (Improving Care for the Opiate-exposed Newborn) program, which not only turned her life around but gave her son a chance at a normal life. The ICON program changes the stereotype of the addicted mother in the NICU for the better. We all have something to learn here.
Families in the NICU struggle on a daily basis and they are at high risk for mental health challenges ongoing due to the trauma inflicted at birth and during the NICU and beyond. Starting parents down a path of psychosocial support is key at bedside and can have a major impact on that infant and family's long-term outcomes. This is the most powerful family-centered care program in existence thanks to the collaboration of three well-respected organizations—National Perinatal Association, NICU Parent Network, and Patient + Family Care.