NICU team earns honors for making care personal for every family

NICU team earns honors for making care personal for every family

A value-improvement team at Christiana Care’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) recently earned three honors for innovative, multidisciplinary initiatives focused on partnering with families and centering expert, respectful care on babies and their loved ones.

The NICU team earned the 2014 Success Story Award from Press Ganey, a nationally known health care performance-improvement firm; the Christiana Care Unit-Based Value Improvement Team Award; and an honorable mention at Christiana Care’s Focus on Excellence Awards in the category “Think of Yourself as a Patient.”

“We strive to provide our patients with high-quality medical care, and we are committed to creating a positive, memorable experience for them and their families,” said Shawn R. Smith, MBA, vice president, Patient Experience. “These awards are a validation of that commitment and of our promise to serve our neighbors as respectful, expert, caring partners in their health.”

Value-improvement teams, a Quality and Safety initiative, bring together interdisciplinary staff members who collaborate to improve the patient experience. The 40-member NICU team includes doctors, nurses, physical and respiratory therapists, pharmacists and patient educators, professionals from Pastoral Care, Environmental Services, and Facilities and Services, administrative staff, and patient and family advisers.

Carlos Duran M.D., FAAP
Carlos Duran M.D., FAAP

“The honors reflect a true team effort of everyone who interacts with patients and families on the NICU,” said Carlos Duran, M.D., FAAP, NICU neonatologist and a leader of the value-improvement team.

The team’s journey began three years ago, when the unit began interviewing families about their NICU experiences.

“Most said the staff was doing a good job. But some responses indicated a need for improvement,” Dr. Duran said. “We heard clearly, too, that parents wanted to hold their babies more.”

To learn more, the NICU developed a survey for staff and families. They studied best practices from the Institute for Patient- and Family-Centered Care, a nationally recognized advocacy group.

“It was exciting to see the compassion and sincerity in establishing clear communication across our teams so that families get a consistent picture of the care their babies are receiving,” said Amanda Sleeper, a volunteer who serves on both the NICU’s Family Centered Care Committee and the Patient and Family Advisory Council at Christiana Hospital.

The survey led to multiple initiatives designed to enhance the patient and family experience.

Volunteer NICU Ambassador Donna Suro shares a moment with  Jamie Chamberlain and her daughter Kendall at Christiana Care's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
Volunteer NICU Ambassador Donna Suro shares a moment with Jamie Chamberlain and her daughter Kendall at Christiana Care’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

In the NICU Ambassador Program, volunteers escort families to the NICU and help them with non-medical concerns, such as showing them how to scrub before entering the unit.

The NICU staff makes sure that the care they deliver is personal. They call each baby by name. New informational whiteboards near each crib display the nurse’s name and the baby’s name, so families always know who is caring for their baby.

New brochures were designed, based on patient feedback, to make it easy for parents to absorb medical information while their newborn is in the NICU.

Parents are encouraged to hold their babies, and they are invited to participate in their babies’ care updates at the bedside.

“If they can’t make it, sometimes the doctor will call them on a cellphone and conference them in,” Sleeper said. “The whole idea is to center care around the baby and the family.”

Within five days of discharge, neonatologists call families at their homes to address any concerns they have.

“We know that families often feel overwhelmed after they take their babies home,” Dr. Duran said. “This provides parents with an opportunity to ask questions and make certain they understand when their next appointments are.”

Sleeper, Smith and Dr. Duran presented their success story to a national audience and accepted their award on behalf of the entire team at the 2014 Press Ganey Client Conference in Orlando, Fla.

Christiana Hospital is the only high-risk delivering hospital in Delaware offering Level III neonatal intensive care. The NICU provides 24/7 onsite board-certified neonatologists. Our neonatal intensive-care unit is fully equipped with the technology and personnel to provide the highest standards of acute care for the newest members of the families we serve.