Today’s post offers parents some information on who may be part of their baby’s care team in the NICU – and what, in general, their roles may be. There may be many different members on your baby’s care team – especially in a Level III NICU. These care providers may rotate in and out based on your baby’s needs and daily goals of care, their own schedules and the needs of other babies in the NICU. As important as knowing what they do is knowing who they are – in other words – their names! The human connection is essential in fostering what will be the all important parent-provider partnership that may last many weeks or months.
- Your baby’s physicians are called neonatologists. They are pediatricians who have been specifically trained in the care of newborn babies or neonates.
- Nurses in the NICU are specifically trained to care for neonates. They provide the day-to-day care and know best the goals of the daily care plan for your baby. Get to know your baby’s nurses. They are the human face of high-tech care. Nurses in the NICU generally work 12-hour shifts. Because the work is very demanding their schedule may be something like 2 days on and one day off. You may not have the same nurses every day as they rotate around the nursery based on the daily assessment of the needs of all the infants. As a result, you will most likely work with many nurses over the course of your baby’s stay in the NICU. As in any life situation, you will find that you develop different relationships with different nurses based in part on personalities and how closely you work with them.
- Respiratory Therapists can be an integral part of a preemie’s medical care team because the lungs are the last major organs to develop in utero. Infants may need extra help in maturation and monitoring to avoid respiratory distress, which is carefully supervised by respiratory therapists.
- Physical and Occupational Therapists: Neonates, because they arrive too early, often need help with sucking and feeding – which falls under the realm of physical therapists. Occupational therapists will work with babies to position them in the isolettes to maximize healthy growth of their limbs.
- Social Workers work with families on logistical and financial issues and organize ongoing care if your baby needs it once he or she leaves the NICU.
While your medical team provides the highly technical and specialized care your baby needs to mature given interrupted gestation, ask your nurses how you can participate in day-to-day care – when can you hold, bathe, feed and change your infant? Your baby needs your loving care just as much!
I would love to hear from readers how they learned to partner with their baby’s care team.