Randall Children's Hospital launches new NICU training program f - KPTV - FOX 12

Randall Children's Hospital launches new NICU training program for parents

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Randall Children's Hospital is launching a new pilot program that allows family to care for their own infants during their stay at the neonatal intensive care unit. The program is said to be the only one of its kind in the Portland metro area.

Little Jack Donaghue came into this world a whole two months too soon.

"It was scary because we didn't know how big he would be," said mom Kim Donaghue. "Eight weeks early was pretty early."

An unexpected twist for these first-time parents who now basically live at the Randall Children's hospital NICU.

"You want to take your baby home and have that experience with them, so it's hard to feel like we were stuck," Kim Donaghue said.

That feeling changed shortly after nurses offered to include baby Jack in the newly launched program at the NICU.

"I felt like the fact that they offered it up to us was maybe a sign that he was doing well enough to be in that program," said father Shaun Donaghue. "I think it was a little bit reassuring that he was eligible and that they would trust us parents to do the things that need to be done."

Trusting parents to help care for their own preemies is an idea the hospital is trying out, though babies with advanced medical needs are still cared for by doctors and nurses. It's all based off a family integrated care model that originated in Sweden.

"This takes family centered care and puts it on steroids and blows it up," said Sarah Stampflee, Assistant Nurse Manager at the Randall Children's Hospital NICU. "Now, the families are leading the care so they're able to help the nurses tell us more about their babies and help drive the care and collaborate with medical staff to provide even better care."

The NICU currently provides two rooms that encompass this new model. As families like the Donaghue's enter the program they are assigned a dedicated team who begins educating and training parents on how to independently care for their infant.

"Since it's our first baby we literally didn't know anything," said Kim Donaghue. "Now, I'll weigh him before nursing, I'll unhook the cords, feed him and weigh him after and then bring him back and hook him up, we're also warming bottles and measuring feedings."

"They're learning not only on how to do just general baby care, like taking their temperature and changing diapers, but they're learning how to feed babies and watch for cues that are specific to our baby population that can potentially be harmful. Such as, when they hold their breaths and their heart rate drops," said Stampflee.

Nurses say beyond learning critical care techniques, the program allows families to spend more bonding time with their babies. Including being able to have skin to skin contact, a practice that seems to result in shorter hospitalizations and less hospital acquired infections. 

"It's a great opportunity for us to help mom and dad and whatever family members are taking care of baby and know we're giving them the tools to be successful at home," said Stampflee.

While the Donaghues say, they weren't prepared for baby Jack's early arrival, they now consider their stay at the NICU somewhat of a blessing for all that they've learned along the way.

"I feel super lucky that we were chosen to do it," said Kim Donaghue. "I didn't know about the program, had I known, I would have requested it. It's made our experience here easier on us."

The hospital says since the launch of the program at the end of last year, they've cared for about a dozen families in their two integrated care rooms.  The goal is to expand the program to five rooms by the end of this year and ten in the next few years.

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