Support for NICU Families: Technology Advances in the NICU

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It’s emotionally and physically stressful having a newborn baby in the NICU. The pressure of having to continue to provide and care for a family while simultaneously having a desire to be with the newborn baby is a lot to handle for NICU families. Some preemie or sick babies are discharged from the NICU within a few days, but there are some who stay for months. Either way, advances in neonatal care are taking some of the anxiety out of having a baby in the NICU. Many hospitals have installed cameras on the incubators, streaming a live feed so parents and other family members can check on their baby when unable to physically be in the NICU.

Live bedside video feed offers additional preemie support

A camera system is set up and parents are given a password to log on, which is necessary to view the live feed. The ability to connect on anything using the internet, such as tablets, phones, or computers – and at any hour – is an incredible opportunity. Every parent wants to stay beside their new little one constantly, but sometimes if a parent has to return to work or home to take care of other children, it can really help with the separation to be able to see the baby from wherever you are. Some systems have the capability to transmit one-way audio so parents can sing, talk, or read to their NICU baby.

Greater opportunity for bonding with family members

In the NICU, siblings and other children are usually not allowed inside to help protect the immune system of the admitted babies. If the baby must stay in the NICU for weeks or months, that can be a long wait for siblings to meet their new brother or sister! The password for the webcam system can be shared with any family members, which is great for those who live great distances or can’t enter the hospital to see the new little baby. The cameras add another layer of support for families who have a baby in the NICU because it can help them bond with their new baby and see him/her anytime they wish.

Minor drawbacks

There are a few drawbacks to this technology. It is possible to witness an emergency situation through the live video feed. In this scenario, the NICU staff disable the camera to take care of baby. Some education is required for NICU nurses and staff so that they can handle basic troubleshooting or know when to call tech support, which does add to their workload. Also, hospitals must find funding for these cameras – which cost about $1000 each – and for additional internet access fees.

However, the costs may very well be worth it. Studies show that the use of cameras in a medical setting significantly reduces stress for caregivers. For families with newborn babies who are struggling every day in the NICU, any form of support can be a lifeline. After all, these families know that it’s important to utilize any moments spent bonding with their baby…. for a few, those precious moments run out.

Would you make use of a live camera system if it was available for your newborn NICU baby?

Sources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3200097/

http://www.cnn.com/2011/12/12/health/webcams-nicu-hospital-infants/

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/228324193_Challenges_of_implementation_of_a_web-camera_system_in_the_neonatal_intensive_care_unit

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