At a northern New Jersey hospital, technology is being used to help reduce the stress of parents with an infant in the neonatal intensive care unit.
Pregnancy is typically a happy occasion, with parents experiencing joy at building their family. When the birth results in the infants admission to the NICU, that joy abruptly changes into an emotional rollercoaster, which can be exacerbated by compromised maternal health.
For parents at The Valley Hospital in Ridgewood, N.J., the anxiety of being separated from their child has been reduced by an innovative new practice called the Peek-A-Boo ICU, which the hospital has trademarked.
With an Internet-enabled video camera attached to a mobile computer cart, nurses are able to provide a live video feed to parents and family members through a secure password protected website.
Giving parents the opportunity to watch their infant in real time can alleviate the stress of being absent from the bedside. When parents or family members cannot be present because of location or illness, the Peek-A-Boo ICU makes it possible for parents to virtually visit their hospitalized infant.
The use of video for remote visualization is not a new concept. But this technology has proven cost-effective by reducing the need for travel and has enabled people to work together from remote areas.
A study conducted in Sweden set out to prove how parental presence in the NICU promotes bonding and may reduce psychological stress. According to the 2010 article “Parental presence when their child is in neonatal intensive care” in the Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences, the study highlighted “a need to develop a family-friendly environment and tangible strategies that provide optimal conditions for parents to be with their child in a NICU.”
An optimal setting would allow parents to stay with their infant full time, but limited hospital space and obligations at home may prevent this.
According to the CDC, more than a half million babies in the U.S. — one in every eight — are born prematurely each year. Some of these infants are fragile and can remain in a NICU for several months. Since its inception in January 2011, the Peek-A-Boo ICU has been used numerous times at Valley, which is the only hospital in the New York metropolitan area offering this option.
The Peek-A-Boo ICU has been an interdisciplinary effort. The concept was created by Frank Manginello, MD, director of the NICU at Valley, and a team of neonatal nurses created the name. Patient care associates are trained to set up the Peek-A-Boo option, which includes obtaining consent, giving a password to parents and setting up the equipment.
If a nurse determines its good timing for the parent to be able to see the baby, a camera and laptop on a rolling cart are brought to the infants bedside and a camera is trained on the baby. If the mother is still in the hospital and unable to come to the NICU, another rolling cart with an Internet-capable laptop is brought to her bedside.
If the parents are already home, all they need is access to the Web. After signing into a secure website with an individually assigned password, the parents and other family members can see the baby in real time.
The nurses said the change has been amazing. “When a mother was too sick to come to the NICU, we used to be able to just bring them the blanket from under their baby,” said Mary Ring, RN, a NICU staff nurse. “With Peek-A-Boo ICU, now we can bring them their baby.”
Parents have expressed how amazed they are by the comfort it brings them to be able to see their infant anytime from anywhere. They also have shared their passwords with key family members, such as grandparents and husbands in the military in the Philippines and France, to be able to see the newest addition to their families, all with a click of a mouse.