“In the ideal Neonatal ICU (NICU), psychosocial support to parents and staff will be targets as important as the health and development of infants”. 

I am delighted to find this phrase recently published in a monograph of the Journal of Perinatology, dedicated to psycologycal support not only for babyes admitted and their families, but also the professionals who work in the NICU.

It is the first time that is real something that many people have been intuiting and wishing for years: the health of professionals is as important as the health of their patients. Forget this probably influences negatively, affecting not only the health of the staff but also the quality of medical and nursing care.

The monograph open access includes several interesting articles:

How to integrate parents for the development-centred care. It´s further than facilitate skin to skin contact or that parents are the primary care givers. The authors suggest that parents should participate in the medical and nursing visits; they should have full access to the clinical history of their children at all times. It´s time to stop thinking about parents as “visits” to the baby and putting them in the centre, because we should educate them on the importance of their fundamental and unstransferable role as caregivers of babies.

How to create support groups for parents during NICU admission. To do this, they propose to offer the support of veterans parents to every family that help parents from the first three days of the admission. Something that some associations such as APREM comes trying in our environment. In addition they point out the importance of bereavement support groups if the baby dies. 

Recommendations for palliative and bereavement care in the NICU. The authors focus the importance of preparing those griefs if it is already possible from pregnancy when a disease or malformation of poor prognosis is confirmed. They even talk about how to prepare the family for a death of the baby at home if that is the wish of the parents.

The essential role of the professionals of mental health in the NICU. Psychologists, social workers, paediatric psychiatrists… and how these mental health professionals also have to deal with the mental health staff, sometimes overwhelmed by the hardness of the borderline situations that occur in the NICU. It is interesting to also know the American Association of Social Workers or the National Perinatal Association who work in neonatal ICUs.

All this reminds me of the the research we launched in the NICU of Hospital Universitario Puerta de Hierro which wanted to cover all these aspects. Increasingly, there are more mental health training and professionals wishing to work in the perinatal area. I believe that it´s time that neonatal ICUs open the doors to them. In some places they are already succeeding.

Little big steps towards the humanizing of intensive care.

Photo: Mireia Navarro and Victoria Peñafiel http://www.ditspetits.org

Ibone Olza
Associate Professor Faculty of Medicine
Department of Medicine and Medical Specialties
Universidad de Alcalá