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NICU Veteran Parent Program

Because of donors like you, there is a new program enhancing the quality of care for families of babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

In the NICU, infants are physically separated from their parents, which impacts the physical, psychological and emotional health of both the parents and the infants. Through the Family Integrated Care (FICare) Veteran Parent Program, parents are guided by experienced families and encouraged to become partners in their infant’s care.

“Parents with babies in the NICU experience a wide range of emotions and a roller coaster of stress,” says Doris Sawatzky-Dickson, NICU Clinical Nurse Specialist. “Staff in the units do their best to support them, but cannot relate to the experience in the same way as another parent who has gone through it can. With this program we bring parents together to support each other and to receive support from veteran parents who are an example to them that they too can get through this difficult time.”

Developed by a healthcare team that includes parents of children that had previously been in the NICU, the goal of FICare is threefold; to foster a partnership between parents and staff, to promote parent-infant interactions, and to build parent confidence.

“My son was in hospital for 7 months following his premature birth,” says Karen Netzel, Coordinator, NICU Veteran Parents, “and as someone who lived it, I know there is a lot of power in a shared experience. I didn’t have anyone who had been through what I was experiencing and I struggled with what I was feeling. As a veteran parent I can say to an NICU parent, ‘I know you are scared, angry, etc., and I was too, and what you are feeling is okay’. We can offer suggestions about how to cope, we know when to simply listen, and we can walk them through any hurdles they are experiencing.”

Under the FICare model, parents are taught to be involved in all aspects of their infant’s care, including tracking growth and progress, decision-making, and taking part in medical rounds. Parental involvement in rounds supports parents in their partnership with the care team, helps them understand and participate in care decisions, and helps to strengthen relationships with the medical team.

It all comes down to healthier, happier families.

“Ultimately the importance of this program is the babies,” says Doris. “Better support and education for parents means better outcomes. Our ultimate goal is to ensure that these vulnerable babies receive the best possible care for the best possible outcomes. This program has been proven to help with that.”

It’s a program that is paying dividends both ways as the veteran parents have found tremendous reward in giving back.

“If I could, I would thank each donor for making a real difference to someone in need,” says Karen. “The thing about this experience is that I can now look back on a terrible time and see how amazing it was. It made us better people. This program gives families an opportunity to share with others in a meaningful way. It allows us to offer other parents hope.”

Because of your support this incredible program is improving the lives of sick kids and their families long after their time in the NICU is over.

If you are a veteran parent of the NICU and are interested in volunteering, please contact Karen Netzel at KNetzel@hsc.mb.ca.