Dawn Clements is the Family Care Sister on the Neonatal ward at Leeds Teaching Hospitals. She has written this blog explaining how they have adapted to the challenges Covid-19 has brought to the neonatal ward.
The COVID-19 pandemic has swept across the globe and has left a very different world in its wake. All healthcare systems had to adapt with little warning to a potentially overwhelming risk. Neonatal units (NNUs) were no exception despite COVID-19 being predominantly a disease of adults.
Leeds Centre for Newborn Care acknowledged that the pandemic would add additional stress to what is already a difficult time for parents. With this in mind we introduced a dedicated Family Care Team, aiming to bridge the gap created by Covid-19. The team is overseen by the Family Care Sister and is made up of some of the Nursery Nurse team, with experience of working on the unit.
Restrictions designed to prevent spread of Covid-19 have profoundly disrupted our usual models of care, particularly the ability of families to care for their baby in the NNU and the nursing staff capacity to partner with them. Almost without exception, these restrictions have caused strain and are the principle factors responsible for reduced quality of Family Integrated Care.
The effects of absent extended family, siblings and peer support alongside the challenges of parents not able to spend time together with their baby have been seen negatively. The absence of the usual face-to-face education and support sessions for parents has also had a negative impact on parental experience.
Despite some return to normality the restrictions of Covid-19 are still impacting the families on the NNU. We are still unable to reintroduce previous methods of support due to social distancing.
Although the Family Care Team was introduced in response to Covid-19 their role has highlighted a new way of meeting the needs of families. This is partly due to the fact that the Family Care Team doesn’t have to balance the care of the baby with parental needs, so they are in a unique position to offer individualised, flexible support.
The positive effect of having a dedicated Family Care Team has been significant for babies, families and staff.