Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) Support Staff
Parental Support in the NICU
We realize that having your baby in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) is an unexpected and stressful event. When your child is in the hospital, changes occur for everyone in the family. This section will help you during your baby’s stay in the NICU. It includes information about the staff and support services offered at Children’s Health.
Physicians and nurses will be dedicated to the care of your baby while staying in the NICU 24 hours a day. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk with your baby’s bedside nurse.
A neonatologist is a doctor with advanced training in the care of sick and premature babies. Sometimes, the neonatologist may be called the attending physician. This doctor is in charge of your baby’s care.
Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
A neonatal nurse practitioner (NNP) is a nurse with advanced specialized training in the care of sick and premature babies. This practitioner works under the direction of a neonatologist. In addition, the practitioner is able to direct your baby’s care and perform many different procedures.
A registered nurse is the member of the healthcare team that you will visit with most while your baby is in the NICU. This nurse will help to provide all of the care your baby needs at their bedside while here.
Other Support Staff
Pastoral care encourages families to draw on faith. When children come to the hospital, they and their families have many questions. Why is my child ill? Why did this happen to our family? What did I do wrong?
Chaplains in the Pastoral Care department listen to these questions and offer spiritual guidance, emotional support, hope and compassion.
Chaplains are available at the hospital 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The unit chaplain may be contacted by calling the Pastoral Care department at 214-456-2822 or ask the operator to page the chaplain.
Chaplains are available for patient and family support as they face:
- Religious rituals or celebrations such as baptisms or christenings
- Need of religious resources
- Spiritual distress
- Health crises/difficult diagnoses
- Any medical emergencies (Code Blue, CPR, withdrawal of life support)
- Ethics consultations
- Deaths (spiritual and grief support and funeral planning)
Child Life specialists are trained in child development specific to premature infants. They are available to provide families with the education and support they will need to cope with having a baby in the NICU. Child Life specialists can help parents learn to hold, handle and touch their premature or sick baby.
They are also available to help answer any questions you may have about how the baby’s brothers and sisters are reacting toward having a baby in the hospital.
These specialists know how to communicate with children of all ages in an honest way. This will help them understand the hospital and why their brother or sister is here. Please let your nurse know if you need to meet with your Child Life specialist.
Guest Relations consists of Guest Relations Representatives (Patient/Family Advocates) and Concierge staff. These two entities work together to provide support, resources and a positive hospital experience for patients and families. Guest Relations staff aid families by:
- Visiting all families within 24 hours of admission.
- Providing a means by which a patient/family or visitor can offer feedback regarding their hospital experience.
- Making recommendations for process improvement.
- Assisting in speeding up services on behalf of patient/family.
- Interpreting the Children’s philosophy, policies, procedures and services.
- Answering questions regarding Patient Rights and Responsibilities.
The NICU has a dedicated clinical pharmacist that sees patients and discusses drug therapy with physicians and nurses.
Physical Therapists (PTs) and Occupational Therapists (OT) are licensed healthcare Professionals. They provide therapeutic and consult services for children with medical, neurological, orthopedic, genetic and developmental conditions. After receiving orders from a doctor, they will perform an evaluation. This evaluation looks at behavioral responses, self-regulatory skills, movement patterns, muscle tone, visual-perceptual skills, auditory responses and infant and parent interactions. A plan of care is then developed with the family. Services provided may include:
- Range of motion, positioning, stretching
- Muscle re-education, strengthening
- Gross-motor activities and development
- Development of self-regulating skills
- Custom splinting
- Neurobehavioral maturation
- Read/understand baby’s “cues” to foster successful interactions
- Family/caregiver education
Members of this team help to provide assistance in the areas of mental illness, postpartum depression and emotional distress.
A respiratory therapist is trained to care for babies with breathing problems. They use special materials to care for these babies.
Your social worker will meet with you to do an assessment. This assessment will help find out which services would be most helpful to you and your family. The services include: support with a difficult diagnosis, assistance with needs during a lengthy hospital stay, crisis counseling and locating community resources (financial assistance, food, etc).
Social workers work closely with the medical team and family. Their goal is to promote comfort around the medical environment and to assist in a safe discharge home for your baby.
Order entry is completed on the unit. This way, questions, concerns or clarifications are easily and quickly handled. In the unit, your baby’s pharmacist has a closer watch on lab results and patient reactions, and can be involved in patient/ family medication teaching.
Speech Language Pathologists (SLPs) are licensed healthcare professionals. They specialize in the areas of feeding and swallowing. After receiving orders from a doctor, the speech therapist will provide an evaluation of reflexes, strength and tone of the mouth/oral motor area, as well as the level of arousal.
Like PTs and OTs, the speech therapist will help create a plan of care with the family. The speech therapist will determine when to begin oral feedings and will work closely with the family/caregivers to provide education and training to ensure successful and safe feeding.
The speech therapist focuses on areas that can impact oral feeding including:
- Muscle tone
- Respiratory control
- Gut development
- Postural support
- Autonomic stability (heart and respiratory rate)
- State control (sleepy vs. awake and alert)