Advocating for Change Blog

Advocating for Change

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“After providing a healing environment, the most important factor impacting developmental outcomes of the premature infant is family involvement.” Altimier & Phillips, 2013 Click To Tweet

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Shift after shift, members of the Synapse Community are making a difference for ONE baby, ONE family as they provide the best in Neuro Nurturing NICU care. While these moments make an incredible impact, there are times when we must come together to create ONE voice for broader change.  

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While the morbidity and mortality of COVID-19 has not touched the NICU as it has in adult populations, it has left its mark all the same in the form of unprecedented restrictions on parental access.  Hospital systems world-wide have implemented policies to curb the spread of COVID-19, that include restricting access to the hospital for non-essential personnel, volunteer services, and even parents.  While there is little evidence to support that these measures have decreased the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, there is a large body of evidence in the literature that separating neonates from their parents, and particularly maternal separation, has lasting detrimental effects for infants and parents.  This issue of COVID-19 related separation policies is the very thing that a new campaign from the Global Alliance for Newborn Care (GLANCE) is working to combat. 

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“Worldwide we see huge inequalities in how much time parents can spend with their babies in neonatal units during the COVID-19 pandemic. Separation of babies and parents is harmful! Our common vision is that every baby born receives the best start in life and this means that babies should be close to their parents, even in times of COVID-19!” [GLANCE statement]. 

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The campaign, “Zero Separation. Together for better care!” launched in June 2020 with the goal of raising awareness of the potential negative effects that separation policies have on hospitalized neonates and their families.   

At the center of the campaign is a comprehensive policy statement, released by the International Family Integrated Care Steering Group, outlining the implementation of infant and family-centered developmental care that complies with COVID-19 precautions. 

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A few key highlights from the statement include: 

– “Both parents should be with their infant on the neonatal unit and postnatal ward, unless they are symptomatic or have been advised or required to self-isolate or quarantine. Use of verbal/written symptom checklist at the entrance to the unit/hospital as is required by staff is suggested.”

“Continual wearing of face masks by parents could potentially impact negatively upon infant development and parent-infant bonding and may hinder hearing-impaired staff and parents. Where a safe physical distance can be maintained between staff and families, parents should be supported to care for their infant at the cot-side without wearing a face covering.”

– “Appropriate technological support using video calling and Apps should not be used to replace parental presence in the neonatal unit, but can be used to support parental involvement and communication with staff at those times when parents cannot be with their infant.”

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You can access the full position statement here: https://www.canadianneonatalnetwork.org/doc/fic/FICareInternationalPositionStatement.pdf

Want to be an advocate for #zeroseparation?  Here are just a few ways to get involved.

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1. Download the social media toolkit from GLANCE.  They have created social media banners, email signatures, and more that allow you to easily create your own posts to support the #zeroseparation campaign and raise awareness. Download the toolkit here.

2. Write to your local professional organization chapter to consider supporting the GLANCE campaign and International Family Integrated Care Steering Group policy statement.  Hundreds of non-profit organizations and healthcare societies have endorsed the GLANCE campaign. However, there is a stark paucity of US-based organizations on the list of supporters.  Write to your local NANN, ANN, or other neonatal focused organization to encourage them to consider endorsing this critical campaign and policy statement. Some suggested wording is below:

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Fellow NICU Clinician,

I am writing as a member of XX Chapter of XX to bring an important matter to your attention regarding parental access during the COVID-19 Pandemic.  As NICU nurses, we know that parental presence in the NICU is vital to optimizing both the short and long term outcomes.  However, in light of the pandemic and limited research surrounding SARS-CoV-2, hospitals around the globe have implemented policies severely limiting or even prohibiting parental access to their hospitalized neonate.  While there is a paucity of research supporting these separation policies, there is wealth of research that parental presence in the NICU has life-long benefits including higher breast-feeding rates, improved neurodevelopmental outcomes, and reduced length of hospital stay, as well as decreased mental health issues for parents.  

Recently, the Global Alliance for Newborn Care (GLANCE) has launched a campaign advocating for zero separation and has endorsed a policy statement from the International Family Integrated Care Steering Group calling for support of parental presence and family integrated care during COVID19 and beyond. I invite you to review the full published policy statement regarding separation policies and consider bringing this policy statement to the attention of our local chapter and national organization leadership.  Please view the policy statement here: https://www.canadianneonatalnetwork.org/doc/fic/FICareInternationalPositionStatement.pdf

 

Best regards,

[Signature]

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3. Share the policy statement with your own unit leadership and ask how you can start a dialogue with hospital leadership to consider adopting a #zeroseparation policy in your hospital.  Click to download the policy statement here. Download Now.

4. Join our community to discuss this and other important NICU topics in our Monthly Community Connection calls.  On August 19th, take part as we engage in an interprofessional panel discussion of the International Family Integrated Care Steering Group Position Statement on Parental Presence in the Neonatal Units During SARS-CoV-2 Pandemic.  Not a member yet? Click here to join.

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