The work of the new Family Centered Care Team in Christiana Care’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit stands out as an example of how powerful seemingly small changes can be.
The NICU always has focused on the medical needs of the baby, but a multidisciplinary team was established in April to focus “much more on the needs of the family as a whole,” neonatologist Dr. Carlos Duran said. The effort is led by nursing but involves everyone in the unit, from environmental services to physical therapy.
The NICU has focused on changes that improve communication with families and helps them become participants rather than bystanders in their babies’ care.
Brochures have long been used to help parents understand their babies’ potential medical complications, but the NICU team recently revised those materials with input from families.
“We’re asking them what they want, and looking at everything we give to families to make sure it’s in simple language that they can easily understand,” Duran said.
Written on whiteboards in each room are the names of the baby and that day’s attending staff, a measure that brings parent communication down to a comfortable, first-name basis.
Another key family-centered improvement has been to give parents more opportunity to cuddle their babies. Hospital staff historically has been reluctant to disturb a quietly sleeping baby, but research now shows that infants sleep better when being held. And parents want to hold their babies.
“We have a couple of nurses who really encourage families to pick up their babies, whether they are awake or asleep,” Duran said. “Our goal is that no parents should be sitting there unable to hold their baby. It’s a huge deal for them.”
The changes are in line with efforts throughout Christiana Care to align with the principles of patient and family centered care.
“Christiana Care is focusing like never before on ways to put patients and families at the center of the health-care process, making sure they are engaged and respected in treatment decisions,” said Diane Bohner, M.D., medical director for Patient and Family Centered Care and Resource Management. “Partnering with patients and families is a key component of The Christiana Care Way.”
Christiana Hospital is the only delivering hospital in Delaware offering Level 3 neonatal intensive care, which is the highest level of capability.