Last year, Visiting Nurse Association of Ohio launched a pilot pediatrics home visiting program for at-risk infants coming home from MetroHealth’s NICU. A year later, we spoke to people leading the program about how the infants and families were impacted.
All first-time parents have the same anxiety. They wonder about how they’re going to get through the first night, the first day, or even the first year! For parents of an infant (or infants) coming out of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), the stakes are much higher. They have to understand how specialized equipment works, including machines that are helping their infants breathe. They also have to be prepared in case of an emergency, such as a sudden drop in heart rate or other changes.
“The goals of this program center around education for the parents and families of the babies coming home from the NICU,” said Renee Coughlin, Chief of Home Health Operations at VNA of Ohio, who heads the program. “We have heard from families that what they value the most is the ‘safety net’ of knowing that a nurse is making regular home visits to check on their baby during the first couple weeks of life.”
The pediatrics home visiting program is staffed by two full-time Pediatrics Nurses and one part-time Nurse Practitioner. The two full-time nurses are available at almost all hours of the day and night to field parents’ questions and concerns. The team will visit between three and eight infants a day, or roughly 160 a year.
“As a team, the pediatrics nurses help parents build confidence by providing them with the education they need to raise their children,” said Coughlin. “We also focus on getting them to doctors’ appointments so they can build that relationship with their pediatrician early on.”
Carmen was born in April, 2018 with Downs Syndrome. She was slow feeding and wasn’t getting nutrients quick enough. Nurses from the program made weekly visits to educate her parents on proper formula supplementation and to check on her progress.
A few months after she was born, her parents learned that Carmen would need open heart surgery due to her Downs. However, in order to move forward with the surgery, she needed to be at least 10 pounds. Over the summer, the nurses worked closely with her and her parents on a feeding program that provided the best and quickest way for her to gain weight.
By October, when she was seven months old, Carmen weighed almost 10 pounds and was ready for surgery. Following the surgery, Carmen is doing very well and still gaining weight at a proper rate. Carmen’s success can be attributed to a combination of the weekly nursing visits and the willingness of the parents to learn and provide the best care for their child.
Diaz Family: Javier, Carmen, Healther, & TJ in June, 2018
|Carmen in November, 2018|
“Our goal is to expand the program to serve up to 300 infants in 2019. We know that is a lofty goal but we’re certain the need is there,” said Coughlin. “As we work closely with MetroHealth, and particularly Deb Lawson who runs the NICU Special Care Clinic, we are confident that our program is making a huge impact on reducing infant mortality and hospital readmissions. We look forward to sharing many more success stories like Carmen’s in the very near future.”
Top Picture: Carmen and her father, Javier Diaz
Photos by Thien Nguyen