To new parents a NICU is usually an overwhelming and scary place. It is filled with beeping machines, tubes, wires, flashing lights, busy medical staff, worried families, and sick babies. Scariest of all, is that their precious little baby, is hooked up to the tubes, wires, and flashing lights, generally surrounded by busy medical staff…and them-the worried family, looking on, trying to stay out of the way.
Generally, after a day or two, things calm down. “Visiting” is no longer a completely traumatic experience. However, it is still generally referred to as “visiting.” While so many efforts are made to help parents feel comfortable, to help them be parents, this term reinforces a barrier between them and their babies.
Some parents are determined and actualized. They understand that they are not visiting their child, but are in the NICU to take care of their baby. Even if this means singing and reading to, praying for and staring at their baby- they are part of the care team. Unfortunately, these parents are in the minority. Most feel like visitors, and it shows.
As we are all working to make Family Centered Care a reality, we must consider even the smallest detail. For parents to be effective members of their babies’ care teams, they must not consider themselves as visitors in the NICU. Helping families feel comfortable among beeping machines, tubes, wires, flashing lights, busy medical staff, other worried families, and sick babies is no small feat. But, it can be done. It must be done. A great place to start is to leave behind our word “visiting” and replace it…with “parenting.”