Parents have long been encouraged to spend time with their babies in the NICU, but they were typically more observers than participants, often feeling helpless and lost as they sat by their child's isolette watching every breath, trying to make sense of the monitors and startling at every bell or buzzer around them.
"With family integrated care, we have done something quite different," explains Dr. Shoo Lee, pediatrician-in-chief and director of the Maternal-Infant Care Research Centre.
"What we've done is to say that for all babies in the NICU, the parents should be the primary caregivers, not the nurses. And the nurses are really teachers to the parents."
The program was instituted following a 2011-2012 pilot project in which the parents of 40 newborns were asked to spend a minimum of eight hours a day in the NICU and tasked with the overall management of their child's care.
That included bathing and changing diapers, monitoring the infant's vital signs, and recording feedings and weight gain on their medical chart. Nurses were responsible for the medical side of care -- looking after feeding tubes, adjusting ventilation apparatus and administering medications.
The babies' progress was compared with those whose care was primarily provided by nurses, and Lee says "the results were phenomenal."
"There was a 25 per cent improvement in weight gain of the babies who were looked after by the parents," he says. "Breastfeeding rates doubled from 40-something per cent to over 80 per cent. Infection rates fell from 11 per cent in the nurse group to zero in the parent group. Treatment errors dropped by 25 per cent. Parental satisfaction went up, parental stress went down.
What a fantastic idea! I hope this becomes standard practice across more NICUs.
Read the rest of the article here.