Updated: Oct 24, 2019
By Erica Rezpecki
“The NICU can be really overwhelming…unfamiliar sites, sounds and overall uncertainty of a new environment creates stress for families”, says Jill Larocque, a nurse practitioner in the Northern Alberta Neonatal Intensive Care Program.
Jill says that this overwhelming nature of neonatal intensive care units (NICU) for families is what inspired her and her colleague Sarah Topilko to revitalize an old project started by a
group of parents back when their babies were in the NICU: a video by families, for families, about what to expect in an Albertan NICU.
While the idea is simple, no video like this existed before for incoming parents. And because these parents’ lives are about to be changed by their stay in a NICU, a video like this can make all the difference in their comfort and confidence levels – a crucial need during what is often a time of uncertainty and confusion.
The highly detailed, in-depth video, “Welcome to the Stollery NICU,” spans over forty minutes. It provides tours of the Royal Alexandra and David Schiff NICUs so families can learn their way around the units before they even arrive. The video also introduces families to staff members so they recognize friendly faces in the NICU, provides quotes from families who have graduated from NICUs so the new families know they are not alone, and demonstrates what it means to be a parent in the NICU.
A lot of the time, Jill says, when families come into the NICU for the first time, they have no idea what they will be walking into. Seeing all the medical equipment and new faces of the staff can be jarring and intimidating, especially on top of the parents’ already high level of stress about their baby’s well-being. This video helps reduce the shock for families by showing them the sights and sounds of life in the NICU, which gives them a semblance of comfort when they arrive.
“The key element to the success of this video was that it was created by families for families,” Jill says. She explains that having parents in the video to tell their own stories shows new families that while they will encounter many ups and downs along their NICU journey, there is hope – parents shine a light at the end of the tunnel.
The video was released September 2018. Jill and her colleagues hosted a red-carpet launch and viewing party, where hospital staff and the NICU graduate families came together to celebrate the video.
“We were both so impressed with the quality of the video and the information that was provided,” said a mom of a cardiac baby at the event. “This video was exactly what we were looking for when we received our daughter’s diagnosis.”
“This is amazing! Wish this was available 5 years ago,” said the mom of a preterm infant.
The Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation generously donated the funds for this video to be made into a reality. To view the video and engage in the wonderful work of Jill, her colleagues, and the families of the Albertan NICU’s, please visit: www.ahs.ca/rahnicu.
Nurtured in the NICU stories are created by the Canadian Premature Babies Foundation to highlight the wonderful work of doctors, nurses, and parent volunteers in Canada’s NICUs. For more information or if you would like to share an initiative happening in your NICU, please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.