NICU professionals hold the lives of our precious babies in their hands – literally making life and death decisions every day. To NICU parents, they are often seen as everyday heroes for their tireless commitment to a very challenging profession.
They are the ones who give new, terrified NICU parents our first tour of the NICU, who introduce us to our fragile babies, who pat our hands and give us hugs when the news is bad and who teach us to hold and care for our babies so we are prepared to bring our precious bundles home.
They love our babies as we love them. But, while they are keenly aware of the responsibility for the babies in their care, they may not fully appreciate the deep impact they have on the lives of the entire NICU family.
I distinctly remember a few days after Jackson’s birth, a feeling of intense loneliness came over me. I felt I had been stripped of my precious baby, and I was devastated by the hideous scar that now stared back at me from where he was supposed to be.
An amazing nurse sat with me and held me and rocked with me and let me cry. It was one of the most meaningful experiences of my NICU journey because she showed me true compassion. She did not try to reassure me that my baby would live. She did not offer to call my family or pastoral care. She simply sat with me, quietly, acknowledged my pain and assured me I was not alone.
Nurses are in a unique position to acknowledge and address many of the challenges NICU families face during the NICU stay and beyond.
Yet few NICUs offer staff education in optimal methods of communication with parents in distress. Giving staff tools and techniques to help them support families who are in crisis can help foster positive and trusting relationships between them. These relationships and staff sensitivity to families are crucial building blocks of family-centered care.
Hand to Hold’s new NICU Heroes Podcast, specifically produced for NICU professionals, will strive to fill this gap in education. Topics will focus on the psychosocial needs of NICU parents, optimal communication skills when supporting NICU parents during and after trauma and best practices in family-centered care. Following the tremendous success of Hand to Hold’s NICU Now podcast for NICU families (since February, the podcast has had more than 11,000 downloads in 38 countries), we are confident the podcast platform will provide a convenient, effective way for NICU professionals to earn continuing education credits but more importantly, learn to more effectively support NICU parents.
Hand to Hold believes that NICU parents are often just as fragile as their babies. Their wounds are not as visible, but their trauma is just as acute. With additional training and effective tools, the sensitive care that nurses take with babies can be extended to their parents ensuring better outcomes not only the babies in their care, but the entire family unit.