What is changing in the NICU? Why is it changing? What can we do?
Around the country, and the entire world, Hospitals, Nursing Homes and Neonatal Units are adapting new "visitation" guidelines to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. In researching current practices at many prominent facilities, many NICUs are enforcing a 1 visitor per baby policy. In the spirit of family integrated care, family have not been considered "visitors" into a NICU for many years. Parents could come and go as they pleased and were equally as important to anyone else on the care team.
Unfortunately, with the real threat of this disease, visitation policies have come back into effect, and while parents can still typically stay for periods of time, they can't all come in together. The number of individuals coming in and out of the unit are being drastically limited. And for many, siblings have been completely restricted which is only increasing stress and frustration for families.
What's important right now is to prioritize the health and safety of the fragile and vulnerable patients that are in the hospital. Yet it is equally important to stay connected so that family and friends are informed of how the baby's progress is, and how the family is coping. We have several suggestions on how to best do this
1) Turn to Social Media:
Turn to Facebook: Post pictures, updates, stories and any needs you have on Facebook. The ENTIRE world is turning to facebook right now to stay connected with the world, so join in. You can host FacebookLive events when one parent is in the NICU and let other's virtually visit right along. Or, search for incredible new Facebook Groups that have popped up in so many communities where neighbors are wanting to help one another. Let your community know what you need and accept help in a time where you have lots of people wanting to support you!
Get on Instagram: Who doesn't love pictures of adorable babies on Instagram? Every time a family member can visit, have them post a new picture on Instagram so others can follow along.
Visit Caring Bridge: Have you created a personal site on Caring Bridge? It's free and it's wonderful as a platform to post updates, stories, photos, requests, etc. Your friends and family can follow your page and also send you words of encouragement and support when they can't physically be with you in person.
2) Take advantage of smart phone technology:
Live chat: Have a smart phone? FaceTime or use Skype! It's a fantastic way to "see" friends and family while talking, and having the visual of the person on the other end of the line can really help decrease feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Apps: Have you heard of Marco Polo? We LOVE this app. It is a way to leave visual and audio messages for friends and family that also join the app. Watch your messages when you have time, and reply back when it's convenient for you!
3) Try and be thankful:
While it is reasonable to be upset and frustrated with changes to visitation, we would encourage parents and family to really try and find ways to be grateful for the restrictions. We have had first hand experience watching what health care workers are doing behind the scenes to help protect the health of patients, their family and the entire community! Healthcare workers are scrambling to find childcare when schools are closed and care facilities are limited to a small number of children, so they can report to work ready to fight the war on this disease. Neonatal Nurses are some of the most diligent nurses on the planet when it comes to preventing infection, so babies are in the best hands possible during this outbreak.
If you are currently a NICU parent...... please find comfort in knowing you are NOT alone! While it is terribly heartbreaking to not visit the NICU all together as a family, this too shall pass. And right now, the most important thing is keeping babies healthy and safe!
We are thinking of you all and wishing you the best! Follow us to read new resources and suggestions to get through this time!