Northwestern Memorial and March of Dimes Launch Family Support Program
Initiative Aims to Ease Stress Surrounding an Infant’s Stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit
Each year, approximately one in 10 newborns is admitted to a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) in the United States, and according to a recent report issued by the March of Dimes, that number continues to climb. When a baby requires specialized care in the NICU, families are often frightened, confused and overwhelmed. To help ease stress associated with the experience, Northwestern Memorial Hospital and the March of Dimes have implemented the NICU Family Support Program, the only program of its kind in the state.
“Most families don’t plan to have a baby in the NICU, so when it occurs, it can make an exciting experience quickly turn stressful,” said Meghan Reilly, LCSW, March of Dimes family support specialist at Northwestern Memorial’s Prentice Women’s Hospital. “Our goal is to alleviate some of that stress by working closely with the parents of hospitalized infants, as well as their family to educate and support them during this difficult time.”
Components of the program include parent groups, educational presentations and discussions, and family events. Families also receive “parent care kits,” which contain information about the NICU, parenting a hospitalized infant, preparing for discharge home and more. The program also provides a stocked book cart of children’s books for parents to read to their infants at bedside, to promote early bonding. To ensure siblings are included in the process, and have an opportunity to bond with their new sister or brother, the program provides sibling care kits, which include books to help them learn about the NICU, supplies to create a handmade nameplate for the newborn bassinette and a special gift from the baby.
“The Family Support Program is a vital component of NICU care, which extends from hospitalization through the transition home,” adds Reilly. “The program helps families cope with the situation and connect with other NICU parents. Our hope is that through support and a sense of community, parents find strength, which ultimately allows them to best care for and bond with their baby.”
“We are proud to be the host site for the March of Dimes Family Support Program in Illinois,” said Ann Schramm, director of women’s health at Prentice Women’s Hospital. “The program goes hand-in-hand with our mission to provide the best patient experience and provides NICU families with the specialized support and care they deserve.”
In addition to providing family support, the program also provides professional development opportunities for NICU staff. These seminars and educational rounds are geared to educate staff on best-practices in family-centered care.
A critical component of the program, a committee comprised of both NICU graduate parents and staff, including nurses, neonatologists and other members of the medical team, will launch in January 2010. This committee will guide the future programming of NICU Family Support, focused on enhancing family-centered care.