Health Team

UNC nurses get feel for preemies' stress

Posted November 22, 2013

Nurses in the University of North Carolina Hospitals neonatal intensive care unit got a different perspective on their job Friday. They engaged in exercises designed to give them a sense of what their patients, many of them premature babies, experience in their first difficult days of life.

The "Preemie for a Day" program has been offered to neonatal intensive care programs around the country for several years. It's designed to increase empathy and improve care.

Preemie for a Day Program allows nurses to feel like a preemie

The nurses began the exercise in comfort, hearing the simulated sounds of a mother's heartbeat as babies do in the womb.

Then came the rush of activity that is required to keep babies born early alive. Monica Vadasiva is usually one of the nurses surrounding a premature infant. On Friday, she got to see what it is like to be that infant.

"It was very eye-opening," she said.

"The lights came on, I was very alarmed by that and not knowing what was going to happen next," she said. "It was very uncomfortable."

When a "preemie" is born, there is a rush of activity, Michelle Waddell, a nurse facilitator for the "Preemie for a Day" program explained.

"We have to intubate them. We have to give them an airway. They need fluids, so we have to give them an IV. They have to be positioned. We need to do testing on them," she said.

 The nurses now know just how uncomfortable and scary the preemie's experience can be.

"It's really an awareness about how we can slow down, do things a little bit differently, really kind of protect their neuro-sensory environment," Vadasiva said.

Nurses also said they would try to limit the number of hands on the baby at one time unless the situation is critical.


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  • moppie Nov 25, 2013

    My daughter was 7 1/2 weeks premature, and it was a very scary time. Many kudos to all the NICU nurses and staff!