I knew she was researching subjects on her own, so I tried not to talk down to her, but explain things in terms she would understand. I think talking down to patients and family does them a great disservice, and makes you appear untrustworthy in their eyes, so I always try to speak to them like I would speak to a colleague, but without the jargon and medical detail.
I've worked in NICUs a long time and in other areas of the hospital as well, and I know that families can be extremely stressed and frightened when their loved ones are hospitalized. I don't blame them, and I try hard to empathize with them, because they need reassurance and knowledge to feel better and understand all the things that are occurring around them. I became a nurse because I am a compassionate person, and I like to think that the way I treat families and patients gives them a little relief and makes them feel just a little better. I think that attitude is truly an important part of the healing process, and families with the best attitudes often "infect" their family members and make their recovery quicker and less draining. I could see that this mother was not allowing that to happen, and so, I tried to make friends with her, reassure her, and let her know that she could ask any question, any time.
I think this made a difference because she began to lighten up after a while, and become less demanding and second-guessing. The other members of the team noticed it, too, and began to identify a little bit better with her and her concerns. At first, they dreaded seeing her walk in the door in the morning, and so did I! We are a team in the NICU, we have to be, and we all work together to coordinate treatment, diagnosis, and wellness practices to make sure as many preemies as possible leave the NICU as healthy, viable infants.
In the United States, there are at least 508,356 premature births every year, and the number in Canada hovers around 400,000 per year. Statistics also indicate that a woman who gives birth to a premature baby has a statistically higher chance of giving birth to another preemie, about 20% higher than a woman who has not given birth prematurely. In addition, the number of premature births is increasing, and research has not yet indicated why. However, I know we see more babies in the NICU than we used to, and more concerned parents as well. So, I think it's important to understand how to work with the families and engage them in the care of the baby, so they understand what will be necessary when they take them home.
Premature babies aren't the best way to bring a child into the world, but with the treatment and facilities we have today, more and more are making it home - healthy and happy. I'm happy to say that this little guy got to head home three weeks before his actual due date because he did so well in our care. He gained enough weight to look like a "normal" baby when he went home with his folks. They were incredibly grateful, which makes this job a lot easier. The mother was still suffering, and I recommended some support groups that she should contact to help her in the next stages of the ongoing saga of the premature child.
Thankfully, this story has a happy ending. Many other premature babies do not share the same happy fate. I wonder what is causing the increase in premature births, and I would like to do more research into the reasons we are seeing more of these births. Is it our stressful lifestyle that is adding to birth complications, or is it because many mothers are waiting longer to have babies? I don't know. I do know that when I see parents carrying their infant home from the NICU, it makes me feel good to think that I helped in some way, and it makes me glad that I'm a nurse. I'm proud I can make a difference in the lives of premature babies and their parents, and that children will grow old because of my intervention.