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Considering accepting an offer for a NICU internship? Read about a day in the life of a NICU intern from her daily encounters to making difficult decisions.The day that I found out I received a NICU internship at a local hospital, I was ecstatic.

As a student majoring in Family and Child Sciences and Psychology, the opportunity to be in a NICU, helping families to cope with their experience, was exhilarating.

I couldn’t wait to get in there and talk to families in crisis, work amongst nurses, and help families to heal.

What I didn’t realize was how difficult it would be.

Teaching “COPE” to Parents

During my NICU internship, I was responsible for implementing a program called “COPE”, which stands for Creating Opportunities for Parent Empowerment.

This theory behind this program is to provide parents in the NICU with information on:

  • What to expect when you have a baby in the NICU
  • What to expect in a NICU setting
  • At home care for a NICU baby
  • Appreciating small milestones

The program was literature based, meaning, I would provide families with information packets and take pictures of them with their babies during each new milestone.

The program emphasized the importance of celebrating any and all progress. For many families, their time in the NICU can last for months.

This can be really discouraging when your baby is so far away from being healthy.

By focusing on taking small steps and taking matters one day at a time, it helps to appreciate even the little victories.

The ICU COPE Outcome

The program didn’t really have as much of an impact as I had hoped.

People weren’t really interested in reading pamphlets or taking pictures next to an incubator.

In the NICU, families can easily get overwhelmed by things such as:

  • Nurses and doctors coming in and out of their rooms
  • Medical terminology that they are unfamiliar with
  • Tracking every progression and setback their baby makes
  • The stress of the unknown and if/when they can bring their baby home

All of these things are on top of trying to treasure what limited time they have to spend with their baby.

As you can probably imagine, the last thing they want was a really excited intern on a mission to save the world, handing them an educational pamphlet. I get it.

So this begged a new question: If this program, specifically designed to help vulnerable families in the NICU, isn’t really working, what will?

Bonding with Your NICU Parents

The relationship that nurses build with parents is incredible. Not only are the lives of their children in nurses’ hands, but many times these nurses are teaching parents how to be a parent.

Family With New Born Baby In Post Natal DepartmentEven if they already have children, being a parent to a baby in a NICU is a completely different experience.

From feeding techniques to changing microscopic diapers, to learn what is just a hiccup and when to get help, nurses are right there, patiently teaching and serving.

While I am not suggesting that nurses pursue an additional degree in counseling, I think that they are in a unique position where a referral to seek counseling would be very powerful.

The Great Divide in Health

There seems to be a big divide between physical health and mental health.

There seems to be a big divide between physical health and mental health. Learn how a NICU internship helped a nursing student. #icunursingcareersFor some reason, we let our physical health take precedence and priority to our mental health.

Many of us view the two as separate entities but fail to realize how intertwined the two really are.

When merging that mentality in a hospital setting, it helps to portray the idea that both are important and both need to be taken care of.

By teaching medical professionals how to spot basic signs of psychological distress, they can help to coach patients and families on when and how to seek mental health counseling.

How Hospitals Can Help

Hospitals (especially intensive care units), need to have someone dedicated full-time to helping patients and families cope with the stress of an extended hospital stay.

Having a trained expert available to talk to families and patients going through hardships is important to help families overcome adversity and grow stronger.

Hospital stays can put a lot of stress on families and have someone on-call to talk to would be very beneficial.

Concluding my NICU Internship

So while the COPE program was a step in the right direction, I feel that the needs of the NICU have been somewhat overlooked for quite some time.

Learn how a NICU internship can help you further in your career. #icunursingcareersKnowing that having a baby in the NICU makes mothers twice as likely to have post-partum depression and hospitals are truly missing a big opportunity to intervene and provide the help they know parents need.

While I didn’t get to make the impact I was hoping for in my NICU internship, my efforts won’t stop there.

My goal is to shed some light on this issue in hopes that others will see it as a priority too and encourage healthy families from the very beginning.

It’s all thanks to my time spent at my NICU internship. Let’s help to make sure that each family starts off on the same foot.

Looking to further your education? Visit our BSN programs page.

NICU Baby: The Difficulty of Having a Baby in Need of Critical Care

As a parent, you know the struggles of having a NICU baby. Here are the top seven tips to help you get through the NICU with peace of mind.NICU baby: For most families, a baby’s birth is a joyous occasion that marks a milestone in their lives. Parents anxiously await their release from the hospital while eager siblings fidget at home counting the hours until the arrival of their new baby brother or sister.

Unfortunately, not all families have the luxury to go straight home and settle into their new lives a few days after the birth of their child.

Babies born prematurely or with serious health complications find themselves in neonatal intensive care units – NICUs – before mothers even have the chance to nurse them.

Tips and Tricks to Cope

Having NICU baby is an emotionally and physically draining experience for both the baby and the baby’s family. It is imperative that a family learns how to cope with the stress of the situation for their sake and the sake of their child. Sometimes, small actions and milestones are the only things that can help families overcome such trying times.

Families of a NICU baby have shared tips that helped get them through one of the most difficult times in their lives.

Here are seven tips, tricks, and techniques that can help ease the burden:

1. Find an outlet

Days at the NICU are filled with a spectrum of emotions and loads of stress and uncertainty. Keeping that energy pent up will be detrimental to your mental sanity and deviate your focus from the light at the end of the tunnel.

Each person will have different outlets, you have to find what works for you. Be it what may: Exercising, crying, screaming, writing, meditating, knitting, anything works as long as you’re providing all those emotions with a healthy outlet.

2. Have Your Own Space Away From the NICU

Parents often keep bedside vigil while their baby is in an incubator and basically move into the NICU. It is understandable for parents to want to spend every waking moment with their child, but it is imperative to have your own space, away from the NICU.

Sleep in your own bed, return to your home or hospital room for at least a couple of hours a day. This will make you feel like yourself and give you a chance to regroup and get yourself together.

Resist the urge of moving into the NICU.

3. Ask and Accept Help:

Asking and accepting help is hard sometimes, but there is no shame in asking and accepting help from your support system. Most people understand you are going through an unbelievably hard time and want to help, let them.

Most of your energy will be focused on your newborn, so any outside help takes a burden of off you. Accept rides to the hospital, let family members invite your older children for sleepovers, allow friends to bring you meals and walk your dog.

Having a support system is key.

4. Track and Celebrate Your Baby’s Progress

Having a baby in the NICU is stressful. Here are 7 great tips to help you cope with a NICU baby. #icunursingcareers

Being in the NICU day in and day out can make it feel like your baby’s progress is stagnant, day-to-day milestones can often go unnoticed.

Keeping a record of this time in your baby’s life through video, journal entries, pictures, smartphone apps, and more is a great way to notice improvements in your baby’s health.

Celebrate those weight gains and slight improvements, because they make a big difference and will make you realize how far your baby has come.

5. Eat

Food and eating usually go by the wayside when experience such high levels of stress and a wide range of emotions, don’t let it. Make a conscious decision of eating three meals and about two snacks a day.

Nourishing your body with nutritious food is extremely important to keep your energies up, especially if you’re expressing breastmilk.

6. Personalize the Space

NICU baby? We know it can be stressful. Here are 7 helpful tips to help you cope. #icunursingcareers

With a baby in the NICU you will likely be spending most of your time away from home, so try to create a “home away from home” space and personalize your baby’s area.

You can bring things from home, hang pictures, and display people’s gifts to make your baby’s space feel a little more comforting.

7. Become Educated

Your baby will likely be surrounded by tons of machinery, and you will hear medical terms on the daily, which can become overwhelming and make you feel helpless.

Do your research on your baby’s condition, and above all ask. Don’t be ashamed to ask doctors and nurses what that complex term they just said means.

Advocate for your baby and be up to date with everything that’s being done to them.