Friday, January 18, 2008

It's all about timing

Visiting your baby in the NICU can be an exciting and sometimes frustrating experience. Learning about a couple of key timing issues can help make visits or phone calls much easier and more relaxing.

Reporting/Rounds – Most NICUs have specific times during the day that the NICU is closed to visitors. These times are used for doctor rounds or nurse reporting during shift changes. Due to HIPPA regulations and the openness of NICU units, it is essential that the NICU is closed during those times as the doctors and nurses are discussing multiple patients. Those times should remain consistent so once you know what they are; it’s easy to plan around them. Doctors routinely write orders in the morning so calling after those rounds is a good time to find out if any changes are going to be made for that day.

Shift Start Times – Find out if nurses work an 8 or 12 hour shift and when those shifts start and end. If you are calling in to check on your baby and how he/she is doing, find out what time nurses start and then wait at least an hour before calling. This will give your nurse time to settle in, check on your baby and provide up-to-date information about how your baby is doing.

Assessments – Nurses run on a pretty regulated schedule. Assessments are the times when they check on your baby’s temperature, do a diaper change, listen to their lungs, change leads or wires, etc. Find out what time your baby is scheduled for assessments – they are commonly done around feeding times. This is important for two reasons – if you want to know exactly how your baby is doing, what his/her weight is (usually done once a day) , and how much they have eaten so far, it is best to wait until after that assessment is done. It’s also easier on the nursing staff if you give them time to complete those assessments before calling. Also, it is important for parents to participate in some of those activities –specifically taking your baby's temperature and changing his/her diaper. You can plan your NICU visits around those times so that you can participate and be involved as much as possible

Feedings – Obviously you want to be there for as many feedings as you can – especially if your baby is old/strong enough to nurse or take a bottle. Work with the nurses to plan out which feedings you can be at so that they can make sure that those are the times that bottle/breast feedings are done (vs. just being fed through a tube).

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