Family First: The NICU at CaroMont
The Birthplace at CaroMont Regional Medical Center is a state of the art facility offering new parents the opportunity to welcome their babies in an environment that puts family first. Sarah Bolynn, MSN, RNC-NIC and Nurse Educator for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit shares what makes CaroMont’s delivery and post-delivery experience exceptional.
The CaroMont Health NICU was the first NICU in North Carolina to have single rooms. In your opinion, what is it important for families to a single room in the NICU and The Birthplace?
Families receive multiple benefits from having a single room for the labor and delivery experience--the most important of which are privacy, convenience and plenty of space for families to bond with their new baby.
Having a baby in the NICU is a completely unexpected event for the majority of families. Our NICU rooms are really a place where families can interact with their medical team and most importantly, help parents stay with their baby through the entire hospital stay. Our NICU is designed to be a home away from home when a baby must remain in the hospital after the mother is discharged.
Are there any specific features of the single rooms that help provide comfort to families?
Benefits for the baby in a single room NICU start with completely customizable care that includes manipulation of the lighting, sound and temperature. Each room has a dimming switch for the lights, doors that completely close and a thermostat that allows the staff to control the environment based on the baby’s needs. Premature babies need quiet, dim and warm spaces to begin their growth in the first days after birth, and we are able to provide those needs environmentally, as well as through our nursing and medical care.
Does the single room approach also support a stronger connection between new mothers and their pre-term babies?
Absolutely! Our staff encourages parent participation in the baby’s care as soon as the baby is well enough to receive it. This means we have moms and dads take the baby’s temperature and change the diaper as much as possible, even in the very beginning.
Another bonus to the single-room NICU design is our ability to promote skin-to-skin (also called Kangaroo Care) with babies and their parents. We dim the lights, place the baby on the mom or dad’s chest, cover them both with warm blankets, and let the bond develop between parent and child. It is absolutely amazing to watch a fussy baby calm completely with they are skin-to-skin with their parent. The baby’s vital signs stabilize, they breathe more regularly and they stop crying almost immediately! The single-room design is also a great way to provide privacy while promoting breastfeeding and/or providing breast milk by pumping (for babies who cannot eat by mouth yet).
If you could give one piece of advice to new parents of a NICU baby, what would it be?
Throughout my eleven years in the NICU at CaroMont Health, one emotion that I have witnessed consistently from parents is fear – and rightfully so! There is fear of the unknown, fear of being in a different place (a lot of people don’t even know what the NICU is before the baby comes to the unit) and a very real fear for the baby’s life. Truly, the bottom line is that parents just want to know if their baby will be OK.
With that in mind, my piece of advice would be to ask as many questions as needed until parents fully understand what is happening to their baby and how the NICU team is treating the problem. We make every effort to explain what we are doing and the reasons for it but when fear takes over, it’s hard for parents to concentrate on the details. I always encourage parents to ask any question they may have, even if they think it’s silly.
We understand that most parents have never had a baby in NICU, and we would never expect them to know the terms and the treatments off the top of their heads. If they don’t know what’s happening or they’re confused about something, I always tell them to just ask the nurse or the doctor, even if they’ve already asked before.
What is your favorite thing about working with families in the NICU environment?
My favorite part of working with families is watching the babies grow and develop in NICU and then following their journey as they become toddlers, preschoolers and eventually big kids. Many families return to the NICU with their babies so we can see them growing and thriving. We become attached to so many of our families because the babies stay a while in NICU and it’s always so rewarding to see them growing and changing into little people with personalities!
On a personal note, the first preemie I cared for when I started in the NICU is getting ready to start middle school, and I still get to see pictures of him regularly. It really warms my heart to know I am part of the reason that he is now a healthy, strong young man.
When families leave the NICU with their babies, despite the challenges they've had, what would you like them to remember about their experience?
I always hope that families know how much we care about them and their babies. I know for a fact that every single person who works in our NICU has every baby’s best interest at heart. We want families to know that even on our days off, we have their babies on our minds and we can’t wait to come back to work and see the progress they’ve made. We are so thankful for every parent who trusts their baby’s care to the staff in the NICU. We truly love our jobs!
Learn more about the Birthplace and Obstetrical and Gynecological Services at CaroMont Health! Visit our website and find out how we care.