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Staten Island University Hospital NICU initiative yields rewards for staff, parents

Monday May 7, 2012
An infantís footprints grace the pages of a memory book.
An infantís footprints grace the pages of a memory book.
(Photos by Tracey Boyd)
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SIUH staff stand in front of poster projects they submitted for the annual collaborative care poster day. Seated, from left, are Michelle Van Pelt, RN; Humu Zomah-Mohamud, RN; Raquel Cardenas, RN; Barbara Cerito, RN; Cathy Gillingham, RN; and Julia Elgendy. Back row, from left, are Anthony Antonelli, RN; Laura Wenzel, RN; Jane Cizin, RN; Michelle Kelly, RN; Francis McCarthy, RN; Kathy Finkelstein, RN; and Marianne DiStefano, RN.
For parents of a premature baby, having a child cared for in a neonatal intensive care unit can be stressful. Not only are they unable to experience the joy of caring for their newborn in their own home, but parents are not with them 24 hours a day and may miss milestones their child achieves while in the hospital.

Realizing the importance of this problem, the collaborative council for 4E NICU at Staten Island (N.Y.) University Hospital, part of North Shore-LIJ Health System, developed an innovative and inexpensive solution by creating journals for each premature infant born at 32 weeks of gestation or less.

Of the 3,023 babies delivered at SIUH last year, 51 were born prematurely at less than 32 weeks of gestation. Thatís more than 50 sets of parents who, potentially, would need a sense of empowerment and contribution to their childís care. Committee members Jane Cizin, RN; Judith Wilson, RN; Branka Cizin, RN; and Christine Ceasar, RN, met to brainstorm different ideas that could potentially increase these parentsí satisfaction. Because staff spends more time with the premature infant than the parents do, the team decided on a way they could document the infantís stay and make parents feel a part of their childís care.

"We came up with the idea of creating a journal for each child that staff could write in each day," Jane Cizin said. "That way, parents would know exactly what went on with their child that day."

Entries include progress the child has made, milestones accomplished and any obstacles he or she has overcome on a day-to-day basis. Examples include, "I got off the ventilator today" or "I started feeding with the bottle today."

Parents also are encouraged to write in the journals, which makes them feel like they are participating in their childís daily life even though they are not constantly with him or her. Parents also donate materials from arts and crafts stores for the journals. "We offer scrapbooking classes for parents, as well," said NICU Manager Laura Wenzel, RN. "Everyone gets involved, including the residents."

To add an even more personal touch, each child gets a handcrafted sign made of construction paper with his or her first name that is placed on the childís isolette. Each sign is unique. The council found that when staff addressed babies by their first names, it put parents more at ease. The sign and journal are given to the parents upon their childís discharge.

The council submitted "Our Precious Preemies: A Look at Creative Interventions to Increase Parental Satisfaction During a NICU Stay" as their entry in the first annual Collaborative Care Poster Day at SIUH in November. The project scored first place out of the 36 projects that were created and implemented by SIUH staff.

Tracey Boyd is a regional reporter. Send letters to editorNY@nurse.com or post a comment below.