Thursday, October 03, 2013

Canadian NICU puts parents in charge

At Mount Sinai Hospital in Ontario, Canada, the NICU has implemented a new program putting parents in charge of their baby's care. From an article at CTV News:

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


  1. As a NICU mom, I do hope for changes in the standard of care. Although, having parents monitor vital signs, etc, seems a bit much to me. I think that this may send some anxious moms over the edge (I was too into all the stats and machines, not sure this was for the best).

    What I would like to see is private rooms that are quiet, light appropriate for baby, and comfortable places to allow for parents to be with their baby, kangaroo care, etc.

  2. This sounds very similar to my experience in a NICU in Colorado. I was thrilled (and slightly scared) with what parents could do.

  3. Tasking parents with learning how to tend best to their baby's needs is a super idea; what better way to get over the nervousness of not understanding when the understanding is realized and applied. How empowered is that ?~!~ Canada has my utmost respect for their medical care. My sister of another mother has had her breast cancer treated successfully thru OHIP despite being an American married to a Canadian who lived most of her time in the usa. Still she is receiving super care and her job is help for her too. If I ever Have to move out of usa, Canada is at or very near the top of my choices list.

  4. That sounds wonderful. My oldest spent 7 days in the NICU and my 2nd spent 3 days there. Especially with my first, when I didn't have any experience parenting, I felt so lost in the NICU. We were in a newly renovated NICU with single rooms and rooming in but it was easy to let the nurses do almost everything because I figured they were better at it than I was. It took a long time for me to feel connected to him, even after we got home, and I think an approach like the one in the article would have helped a lot.

  5. I think it sounds awesome to have parents do it all! It's empowering for a parent to have that kind of responsibility, I'd assume many would be monitoring more closely than a nurse anyway! I love your blog and link to it from my own. I'd love for you to check it out.


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