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MCN Am J Matern Child Nurs. 2002 Mar-Apr;27(2):76-85.

Primary care of the premature infant discharged from the neonatal intensive care unit.

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West Virginia University School of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, Morgantown 26506, USA.


Premature infants require varying degrees of newborn intensive care and have a wide range of physical and developmental outcomes. Subsequent ambulatory care for these infants is often complex. Although tertiary hospitals often provide multidisciplinary follow-up clinics, the pediatric nurse practitioner (PNP) responsible for primary care has a unique opportunity to influence the lives of these special babies and their families. While the basic principles of well child care and health maintenance apply to this special population, there are several inherent challenges. The transition from neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) to home can be stressful for families. Infants born prematurely often have unpredictable behavior and present with cues that are vague and unclear to caregivers. Growth must be monitored adjusting for prematurity, and nutrition must be tailored to the physical and developmental level of the infant. Assessments of development, vision, and hearing must also be adjusted for prematurity. Fortunately, the majority of premature infants discharged from the NICU thrive and develop normally. However, some will experience medical problems and developmental delay. Knowledge of complications common to premature infants will be helpful to the PNP providing primary care. These include difficulties of growth and feeding, gastroesophageal reflux, apnea and bradycardia, chronic lung disease, fine and gross motor abnormalities, and other learning problems. Providing care to the NICU graduate is one of the challenges faced by PNPs in primary care, but one that is both rewarding and enjoyable.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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