An approach which supports close parental involvement in the care of their babies is being formally rolled out in Dunedin Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Dunedin NICU took part in a Canadian-led international trial of Fi-Care (Family Integrated Care) in 2015. 

Under the Fi- Care model, parents are supported to be active members of the NICU team through activities such as feeding and changing their baby and taking part in medical rounds. 

The goal is for parents to form close bonds with their baby and leave NICU with increased confidence.

The 2015 trial showed positive results, including a significant increase in weight gain for babies and reduced stress and anxiety for parents.

Dunedin NICU is now implementing Fi-Care with a formal framework and resources for parents.

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NICU Charge Nurse Manager Juliet Manning explains: “Philosophically it’s not different from the approach that we have already but it’s more structured and consistent.”

Parents will be given a folder with resources specific to Dunedin NICU including checklists to track their participation in the baby’s care.

“We will also have weekly parent teaching sessions around common issues in the unit like apnoeas and bradycardia so the parents get consistent information and can ask questions.” 

Parents will able to take the lead and pace themselves in terms of what they want to be involved in and what they want to learn.

“One of the things that’s come out of this is parents are a lot more confident. They know their baby really well.

“In 2015 people were concerned about the stress it might cause parents but in fact the parental stress and anxiety scores in the trial group were significantly lower than normal practice.”

Parents are given a questionnaire when their baby is discharged to provide feedback about their NICU experience. There is a research project planned using the results of questionnaires from pre- and post- implementation of FiCare to further understand the benefits and to help inform any future developments of the model.