It’s a great day in NICU whenever we have a NICU graduate leaving our hospital! To commemorate this major milestone, I teamed up with volunteers to knit graduation caps. I then gave the graduation caps to our discharge nurse to give out for patients that have been admitted to our NICU for 30 days or more. These graduation caps have been a huge hit and I’ve heard parents say that it’s the best part of their whole hospital experience. See our beautiful graduation caps below modeled by my legacy preemie doll!
While it is an honor to be able to be a part of this difficult time in a family’s life, bereavements are always difficult in a pediatric setting. They’re of course difficult for the grieving family, they’re difficult for the staff, and they’re difficult for me. No matter what anyone says/does, this is the worst day in this family’s life. Our role as child life specialists is to provide support to the grieving family. This may be by simply sitting with the patient’s mother and listening to her vent, this may be by helping the family create a memory box for the patient, or even just providing tissues and tea. Every bereavement is different as are the needs of each family. During my time in NICU I have found some incredible resources to offer grieving families.
Angel GownsNICU Helping Hands’ Angel Gown® Program began in 2013 because we recognized there was an overwhelming need for better support for families who lost a baby. Our Angel Gown® Program provides comfort for bereaved families through the gift of a beautiful custom-made gown for final photos and for burial services.
I was touched when I received my shipment of Angel Gowns by seeing how much detail was put into the gowns. They’re made from donated wedding dresses and come in a wide range of sizes. The smallest being an “Angel Wrap” for those angels that are too small to clothe, up to extra-large size for infants. The gowns come in individual boxes with a flyer from NICU Helping Hands of various support services they offer grieving families. The gowns are also open in the back with the option to tie, much like a hospital gown.
Teeny TearsTeeny Tears is a service organization that provides tiny flannel diapers at no charge to hospitals and bereavement support organizations for families that have suffered the loss of a preemie or micropreemie child through stillbirth or NICU loss.
Teeny Tears are another great resource which offer cloth diapers/hats and blanket for the loss of preemies/micropreemies. What I love most about Teeny Tears is that each bundle comes with two diapers and two hats; one for the baby to keep and one for the family to keep.
I have also created an Amazon list of other items I’ve used for bereavements. Click here: http://a.co/iwUT1Zt
You may remember that back in June I began providing coverage in NICU. While I am in no way a child life NICU expert, I wanted to share some tips and tricks in working with this unique population and their families. Luckily, my NICU already had a sibling program set in place when I arrived. Siblings ages 3-12 are able to visit their new baby brother/sister for 1 hour each day after completing the child life sibling program. I, of course, lead the sibling program where I go over why their baby is in the hospital, introduce medical play opportunities along with therapeutic activities, and orient them to the hospital. I then accompany the siblings to their baby’s room and help foster that first connection between the siblings. In doing these sibling visits I’ve witnessed some of the most tender, precious moments and I’m so thankful that I’m able to be a part of it.
Here are some of the things I use during my sibling visits
1. The Big Brother & Big Sister Guide to NICU; this is a workbook I made that goes over everything we need to cover during our sibling program. It includes pictures of things the siblings will see, a dictionary for things they may hear, the rules they must follow while in the NICU, and some therapeutics.
2. Big Sister/Big Brother Award; these I got for free on teacherspayteachers.com. I laminated them and then fill in the sibling and the baby’s name with sharpie; very official!
3. Baggie filled with medical play materials to take home.
5. I’m a big brother/ I’m a big sister stickers
6. “Your New Baby is Here!” coloring book. I found this coloring book on NATUS.com. Not only are they cute, printable, and developmentally appropriate but you can download them in 6 different languages!
7. (not pictured) gold medal to celebrate sibling for being a great big brother/sister.
A few weeks ago you may have noticed on my Instagram account I announced I was moving to a new unit. I have been quite busy transitioning over, orienting, and learning the ropes. However, I am so excited to let you all know that I am now working in NICU! I split my days between our orthopedic/surgery unit and NICU so I still see a wide range of patients/ages/diagnoses which I love. Stay tuned for more in the coming weeks on my transition into NICU. For now however, check out these milestone cards I made for our babies! They’ve been a huge hit with the families and staff; milestone cards are a great way to commemorate important events in these little ones lives.