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Neonatal Netw. 1993 Jun;12(4):37-44.

Creative caring in the NICU: parent-to-parent support.


When infants are admitted to a neonatal intensive care unit, the parents are immediately confronted with the crisis surrounding a critically ill newborn and often require additional support. Parents experience feelings of anxiety, fear, anger, and guilt over this unanticipated event. In addition, parents often describe the withdrawal of friends and the denial responses of well-meaning family members during their infant's illness. In an effort to address the NICU parents' need for support, Butterworth Hospital in collaboration with Michigan State University initiated a demonstration and research project focused on parent-to-parent support. The primary goal of the program is to improve parenting outcomes by providing emotional, informational, and role modeling support to parents of high-risk infants utilizing experienced volunteer parents. The program model includes professional program coordinators who recruit and train volunteer parents with past NICU experience. Volunteers are then matched to new NICU families based on infant's diagnosis, similar geographic location, and other characteristics. Volunteers provide support through hospital visits, phone contact, and home visits during the infant's hospitalization and throughout the infant's first year of life. The program was evaluated by analyzing the differences between a treatment group and a comparison group of parents. Significant differences between groups were found on measures of maternal mood states, maternal-infant relationships, and home environment. Services to over 900 families by 110 volunteer parents have convinced staff that the volunteer parents are a valuable and indispensable component of the services at Butterworth Hospital and that families of high-risk infants benefit from past experiences and ongoing support of volunteer parents.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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