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'Family integrated care makes parents part of the neonatal team'

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Stacey Shaw always knew she wanted to work with children so as soon as she qualified as a nurse, she requested a management placement in neonatal care and never looked backed.

“I feel very lucky to be one of the people that can say ‘I love my job and don’t mind getting up in the morning to do it’,” she says.

Ms Shaw began her exceptional neonatal career working in a special care unit before taking a role on the high dependency unit (HDU), all the while taking every opportunity to further her education with training in neonatal intensive care.

At the age of just 24, Ms Shaw was promoted to a band 6 role on the neonatal unit where she continues her valuable work today. Since then, she has achieved one of her proudest professional accomplishments of pioneering, in partnership with a colleague, a neonatal community outreach team. “Not a lot of units have them,” she explains. “But after six years ours is still going strong and forever improving the lives of the patients and families we work with.”

On an average day, Ms Shaw can be found working with inpatients and their families and educating staff, or out making house visits to babies not yet at full health providing home oxygen services and educating care givers about nasogastric tube feeds.

“In the past, parents were more bystanders of their babies’ care”

One way in which Ms Shaw and the rest of her team are improving lives is through the application of a model of care relatively underused in the UK called family integrated care (FIC). Dr Shoo Lee brought the FIC model to Canada following a trip to Estonia, where he witnessed the model’s implementation and benefits first-hand.

From Canada it has migrated to the UK. “It’s an exciting prospect,” says Ms Shaw, who is particularly passionate about the model. “In the past, parents were more bystanders of their babies’ care. With family integrated care the parents are encouraged to become part of the caring team.”

This empowers parents to be key partners in their child’s care, rather than observers. To this end, parents are trained in skills like proper hand washing, oxygen delivery and temperature taking. Parents also participate in medical rounds and have an in-depth understanding of the care their babies are receiving.

“Parents benefit from increased competence and confidence”

Ms Shaw enthusiastically explains that the benefits of the FIC model are far-reaching, affecting the parents, the neonatal unit and, of course, the babies themselves. “Parents benefit from increased competence and confidence in their abilities to care for their baby upon discharge, allowing them to embrace and enjoy the neonatal journey,” Ms Shaw says. “This helps the neonatal unit to discharge babies earlier and more safely, reducing cost and opening up beds.”

Most importantly, babies cared for under the FIC model show increased growth and breastfeeding rates and a reduced risk of infection and remittance.

While the FIC shifts responsibility of some tasks traditionally assigned to nurses to the parents, the model does not relegate nurses to a secondary role. On the contrary, the nurse’s priority is still the baby’s care and they also assume the responsibility for educating parents. By providing parents with expert training, nurses ensure that a high quality of care will continue for the baby even after they have been discharged.

These new roles and responsibilities under the FIC model illustrate the skill neonatal nurses possess in thriving off challenging situations and adapting to change.

“Neonatology is an ever-evolving world,” Ms Shaw remarks. “There’s always a new way to do things better.”

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