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?✋✋✋