NICU Central Answer:
I see it all the time, this unbelievably frustrating situation for families!! Here you are, in a vulnerable position and looking for authoratative, professional support and guidance, and then you find you're hearing conflicting information. One doctor says the plan should be A., but then the next doctor comes along and says "No, let's not do A. Let's do B." Ugh! And then one nurse says "You need to let baby rest, don't overstimulate her, just be quiet and only touch her when she's awake" and then the next day the nurse says "It's good for your baby to be held as much as possible, please come visit her often and hold for a long time." One nurse wants you to participate in all the cares, the diaper changes and the temperatures, and they trust you to do them when the time is appropriate. The next nurse says she prefers to do these things herself, cuts you out of your baby’s caretaking. What is a parent to do!?! Firstly, let me explain that this is not designed to drive you crazy, and you'll find this same frustration throughout all the departments of the hospital, every hospital, everywhere you go, from what I've heard and experienced. And the reason is this - hospital staff are humans, same as you and me. We are not super human, we do not have the ability to all think alike, behave alike, express ourselves alike. So it's inevitable. Each and every hospital staff person has a different education, different medical experience, different personalities, different caring behaviors, different comfort levels, different communication styles, etc.... so you can see it would truly be impossible to expect any different. I understand that what you, as NICU parents want, is consistency and a solid understanding of exactly what is happening and what to expect. But medicine and life just don't work that way. More importantly than understanding why this is so, is figuring out how to deal with this in a way that doesn't drive you crazy. And I've found a few things to be helpful:
- Pay attention, be involved. The more you are being actively involved in your baby’s care, and being aggressive about learning what is going on, what the plans are, etc the more you’ll be in a place to understand what’s being discussed. You’ll end up being the one knowing what’s going on, you’ll be able to speak up and guide practices. It is the reason to become your baby’s advocate, which is truly the most important job you have now, aside from being a parent.
- Point it out, ask for clarification. Speak up when you get contradicting information. Make the staff aware that they are telling you conflicting information. Kindly. They still may stick with their own explanations, but at least they will know where you are coming from, they'll know where their co-workers are coming from, and they'll recognize that you are paying attention and demanding attention to detail. Ask them for a conference, if necessary, with all of the staff involved so that you can, as a group, come up with a consistent plan or explanation. And always remember that your baby is counting on you to be her parent, advocate, protector - if a situation becomes dangerous or unsafe in your opinion, you must speak up. Take your concerns to charge nurses, unit directors, social workers, or hospital ethics committees if you continue to feel unsafe in any way.
- Roll with it, let go. Most of these inconsistencies are not life & death, so often the best course is to just move on. I know, you have so much control to give up already, and this is yet one more. But truthfully, letting go of the expectation that you'll get this huge staff to be completely consistent is one of the best things you can do for your sanity. My goal is for you to be able to hear all of the stuff, the good and the bad, from the people you adore and from the people you dislike, and try to find something to gain from it. Re-think how you approach all of these NICU nurses and staff. As much as you (and everyone) would love to be surrounded by awesome, cool, friendly, kind, kindred spirits with whom you feel lovely connection, the truth is that it's not gonna happen. Those days you have to share your baby with staff that you don't like so much, try to turn it into a game to learn from this person. (An example - one nurse tells you to bathe your baby in a particular manner. This is your favorite nurse, and you love the ideas she shares. And then a week later another nurse, with whom you don't get along as well, guides you through another bath with your baby. She does it differently that your favorite nurse, and tries to tell you this is the best and only way to do it. Rather than dread this time, try to take in what this nurse has to share, because her bathing tips and techniques may actually come in handy someday. Maybe 3 days after you go home with your baby, you'll find that what that annoying nurse showed you is actually just the thing for your baby at bath time. Trust me, it’s happened) You never know, and by turning this annoying situation into one of gain (more knowledge) rather than loss (time with an annoying person), you'll come out ahead. And saner.
Pay attention, advocate & point it out, and then most of the time, just roll with it.
This is the Q&A Forum, and this is just my answer - what's yours? Please share with the community here: did you experience this frustration? How did you deal with it? Any success stories? Photo Credits: Mercy Health, Alex E. Proimos