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About this blog

Have you ever wondered, how things are done in other NICUs? Having an insight in other's unit practice can be a useful thing. Since sharing is caring, this blog offers you a well balanced mix of objective facts and personal thoughts about things I've observed in different NICUs. Interested? Stay tuned!

Entries in this blog

Would you dare? Intubation on parent's chest

When it comes to inserting tubes, NICU staff is probably the most experienced in the world. Intubation is one of the first procedures we learn as young doctors in NICU. Some of us perform it through nose, some through mouth. But who performs it on mother’s or father’s chest?
Well, I’ve seen it only once or twice, but that is a practice in Uppsala University Hospital.  What do you need to perform it? An intubation set. A baby, that actually needs that intubation. It can be a planned or an acute one. And then you need that special thing- a parent (or a caregiver), that is willing to help you with the procedure. When I came back from Sweden, I shared this crazy idea with one neonatal nurse. She told me, that it must be extremely stressful for the parent and that she considers it inhumane to push parents to do that. Well, I can say that I partly agree with her, giving the specification of the unit she worked in at that time. It was a medium size NICU of the highest reference, where parents were welcome to visit the baby, but there were no beds for them, and the chairs for the kangaroo care were each time brought in for that short „session” of skin-to-skin care. LET’S TALK ABOUT SPONTANEITY THERE!  But in Uppsala University Hospital this procedure is possible, because you have parents there all the time. They basically never leave the unit. If they are not doing skin-to-skin with their baby (watching a movie on a little player approved by the unit or reading a book), they are cooking or eating in the parent’s area or taking shower in their bathroom. They are not patients there, but they are staying there overnight, so in the morning you can see some of them sneaking out to the bathroom in their pyjamas. So in that situation, you don’t just have a scared parent, who is there from time to time, smiling nervously to his or her child through the plastic incubator. You have a semi-professional companion, who knows his or her baby’s needs best and who is there to care for their own infant. So back to the main topic. Intubation on parent’s chest. Ok, you may say- that sounds okay, but what are the benefits? Why should we risk intubating on an unstable ground? I asked Erik Normann, the Head of the Department of Neonatology in Akademiska Hospital in Uppsala the same question. His opinion is, that in that way child stays in it’s preferred care site during this stressful moment. And in case of spontaneous extubation during skin-to-skin care, you don’t have to move the child back to the incubator to place the tube, so this is quicker. And that skin-to-skin care just continues after the procedure. There’s no special technique or limitations for that procedure, but he admits, that it creates some logistic problems with the staff position around the bed. Also, bending over parent’s chest is not the most optimal working position (especially for taller doctors 😉). But what you get in return for that effort is a happier baby, supported and stabilized by their parents hands. I’m not sure if all of us are „there yet”. What is the more important, is that we are heading in that direction- to this mental NICUland, where parents are there for the baby all the time, to offer warmth of their skin and delicacy of their touch, and where medical staff is ready to accept their help and presence. Together we can do more! So hands up guys- who does that too in their unit? Who would like to try?✋✋✋

cathfriday

cathfriday

The Finnish way of caring

I had an amazing opportunity to visit NICU in the Turku University Hospital in 2016. They admit around 550 problematic newborns per year. About 10% of them are born below 30 weeks of gestation. The whole unit is practically based on 11 family rooms (single family rooms when possible) and additionally one larger room for 4 patients. The larger room is usually used for babies who are admitted due to transient issues (tachypnea, hypoglycemia, hyperbilirubinemia etc). Single family rooms are equipped with an incubator/open warmer bed/cot, one adult bed, one reclining armchair and a nappy changing station. There is also a breast pump and a refrigerator for breast milk in the room. Parents are constantly involved in the care of their preterm baby and are welcome to stay and care for their child all day and night. That’s the theory. So what is the reality?
 
Entering the unit for the first time, the word that came to my mind was „serenity”. 
The unit welcomes you with knitted octopuses and tiny socks everywhere.  The whole design of the unit is somehow soft, warm and calming. Each family room is „protected” by a closed door with a window in them - and the window is also covered with a pastel-color quilt. If you want to enter the room, or you’re just looking for your co-worker, you can just „peek in” and check without disturbing the family much. Then you can knock on the door and enter the room. This way you are giving the family the maximum privacy we can offer in those special circumstances. Well, you have those tiny, „problematic” children in those private family rooms, with their parents being their primary caretakers, guardians and gate-keepers. Yet, nobody feels that their access to the patient is limited. How is that even possible? Maybe this is what we call „the change of the caring culture”? When you’re „letting go” of some of your duties and delegating them to the parents, you also learn to trust them with your little patient. After all, we all have the same goal- and the parents are personally and emotionally interested in their own child’s well-being, so they have even stronger motivation to perform well. Visiting you patient in the single family room feels like visiting your friends, who had just brought their newborn back from the hospital. Imagine the situation, that you’re paying them that first visit, with a little gift wrapped in a pink paper and a big pink balloon. What will you expect? I think it’s quite normal that their room will be a bit messy and everybody will be whispering around the sleeping baby. It’s normal that the mother will be breastfeeding (or pumping milk) in your presence. And again- it’s normal that parents will be touching and cuddling the baby. I’ve visited several neonatal intensive care units around the Europe. They all announce proudly, that they are „family centered units”. They all know that skin-to-skin care is a recommended, good and beneficial procedure. Yet in the same time, they actually treat it like a medical procedure - which is time-limited and full of exclusion criteria. That procedure also seems to be quite stressful for the medical staff, because they feel like they can’t access their patient anymore. What if something happens, what if we need to react, how to save that baby when the baby is outside the cot? How can we be medical professionals, when the patient is out of reach? It comes straight to the question: what exactly is skin-to-skin care for you? Is it a medical procedure, which is performed once or twice a week, for one hour, when the baby (and the parent!) is fully dressed? Or do you consider mother’s and father’s bare chest as a new space of care for your patient? A safe surrounding, stabilizing baby’s body temperature, breathing and heart rate?  And what do you consider a contraindication for skin-to-skin care?  Recently I’ve heard from my friend that in their NICU (highest reference centre) kangaroo care is performed only after the baby reaches 1600g. In other place, I’ve seen a healthy 31-weeker in his second week of life, on full enteral feeds, happily kicking in a closed incubator, who couldn’t be kangarooed or even touched by his parents, just because there was a PICC-line placed in his arm. I still remember those sad parents, wearing plastic gowns, standing by that closed incubator, not being able to even touch their own baby, just because it was a preemie.  Prematurity is a diagnosis, but it’s not a sentence! If we are treating similar babies with similar equipment and similarly trained staff - why does our practice differ so much? Leave your comment and join the discussion!    
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