In my many years of NICU nursing, I was asked countless times from families if they could take me home with them! And I heard families ask my co-workers that same question time and time again.
Families, while in the NICU, especially when they experience a lengthy stay, grow accustomed to having a medical professional looking after their fragile infant 24/7. That brings a level of comfort and when parents are facing the reality of finally taking their child home, the excitement of leaving the hospital can often times be overwhelmed by the fear of not having immediate help near by if something were to go wrong.
The answer to their question unfortunately was/is always no. Nurses can't go home with parents. HOWEVER.... there is a little bit of good news! Parents can become their own N.U.R.S.E. to ensure they are taking care of themselves so that in turn they will be able to better care for their child when outside the hospital walls.
Implementing the N.U.R.S.E. care model is most beneficial if families can begin utilizing the tool while still in the hospital. This provides the opportunity for parents and family members to get used to how the tool works and can utilize the NICU staff as supporters of their plans. Once home, families will be better equipped to continue the practice of N.U.R.S.E. self care and can transition to relying on other family and friends for support.
What is the N.U.R.S.E. care model?
It is simply a way to create, carry out and stick to goals that focus on self care! The individual will create daily goals in several categories, and do their best and meeting those goals to improve and/or optimize health.
Each category signifies an area of focus that if addressed, can help improve an individual's psychosocial support.
N: Nutrition Making a goal related to eating right and having healthy foods/snacks is so important! Think of a goal that will help you get in healthy foods for fuel your body.
U: Understanding Having the information you need to understand what is going on with you and/or with your child will help calm nerves and/or anxiety. It's important to know where to go for appropriate information, as the web can provide inaccurate information that is not applicable to YOUR situation. Ask questions of the medical professionals involved in your or your child's care.
R: Rest & Relaxation Being a new parents is exhausting and overwhelming. Being a parent of a NICU graduate can be even more exhausting and overwhelming due to many complexities of care and worries. Getting plenty of rest is KEY! And finding ways to allow yourself to relax will help you not only feel better, but will help you be more equipped to care for your baby.
S: Spiritual Not everyone believes in a higher power, or a God. So spiritual goals really need to be customized to what spirituality means to you. Is it spending time in prayer? Reading scripture? Meditating? Being out in nature? Finding ways to connect to what is important to you is what this is all about!
E: Exercise Healthy movement and exercise is good for everyone.... especially stressed new parents. Find a way to work an exercise goal into every day. Maybe it's to get out and talk a short walk, to participate in yoga at home, to walk on a treadmill, etc. But setting a goal where you will get some type of exercise every day will be good for everyone!
Download a N.U.R.S.E. template form now and start setting self care goals today!
Most people don't think of the NICU as a place to play games and have fun. It's a scary, overwhelming, isolating and high intensity environment. Who would be playing a game when babies are struggling every day and fighting for their best chance at life?
Well, we are thrilled to be showcasing and releasing our latest product that will get parents of NICU babies playing a game! Because we know what a stressful and exhausting experience the NICU is for many families, we know that a little fun can go a LONG way! And why not have fun doing things that are healthy and helpful for a parents' physical and mental health?
We have created a NICU Parent Bingo game, inspired by Postpartum Internationals Postpartum Bingo game, that is designed especially for NICU families and helping them find a way to focus on their self-care during their child's hospitalization. A neonate's health and overall well being can be dramatically improved when their parent's psychosocial and physical health are in harmony, yet typically NICU families have a difficult time prioritizing themselves when their baby is in the hospital.
We encourage neonatal staff to provide families with a BINGO card early on in a NICU admission, and then find ways to provide incentives for when they complete a traditional Bingo or a full card Bingo. Reward families for making themselves a priority and caring for themselves when they likely want to do everything but that.
Purchase the cards and laminate them to use them over and over again with long term families, or provide a single card to families to hang at their baby's bedside if they have a shorter stay. Get creative on how you present rewards, celebrate parents who are able to participate and use the card as an additional teaching tool to remind families what self care is important to focus on.
For this inaugural NICU Mental Health Awareness Week, we are going to give a way two sets of our brand new Bingo cards! Enter into our drawing, and watch social media on Friday to see who wins!