Program at QEH involves parents more in their newborn’s care

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) recently launched a care program called Merge™ to involve parents more in their pre-term baby’s care while in hospital. 

On average, approximately 300 newborns are admitted to the QEH NICU every year. With the support and guidance of the health care team, parents are now able to be actively involved in caring for their baby while in the NICU so they develop the knowledge, skills and confidence needed to help make the transition to home easier.

“Through this program we are helping to make parents part of the health care team while they are learning to care for their pre-term baby. This program helps parents be less stressed, increases confidence and supports babies going home sooner.”

- Health and Wellness Minister Mark McLane

Merge™, an initiative of Liminality Innovations Inc., is a family-integrated health care model and a new standard of care in NICUs across the country. Under this model, NICU staff and other health care providers have been trained to welcome families as active members of their baby’s care team while in hospital. For families, this means: 

  • learning to change their baby’s diapers, take their temperature, feed them and other tasks 
  • participating in bedside rounds with their baby’s health care team 
  • documenting their baby’s progress each day in a journal as well as questions and other information they have for the NICU team

For newborns, the benefits of having their parents involved in their care early on strengthens the bond with their parents; supports healthy brain development; stabilizes their overall health (breastfeeding, weight gain, reducing the need for breathing and feeding supports); and, it has led to a shorter length of stay in hospital and fewer return visits to hospital. 

“The introduction of Merge™ into our practice has been transformative from the very beginning.  We have always had great success engaging parents; however, this program elevates collaboration with parents to new heights,” said Julie Fitzpatrick-Hopkin, QEH NICU Clinical Social Worker. “Families are able to openly engage with our team in a different way, introducing their babies, sharing about their babies’ successes and their worries in a setting that can be otherwise intimidating.  We saw parents’ confidence and engagement soar, even in the first few days. Our team is no longer ‘doing for’ our babies and families, we have transitioned to ‘doing with’ them.”

“Having a critically ill newborn in the NICU can be a stressful experience for parents. Learning to care for a newborn both in the hospital and at home requires extensive support during their hospital stay,” says Dr. Karen Benzies, CEO and Founder of Liminality Innovations. “The QEH NICU has always had excellent neonatal intensive care and staff are always looking for opportunities to enhance the quality of care. We are excited that Health PEI and the QEH NICU have adopted Merge™ and are seeing tremendous success integrating families within the health care team when they are ready and willing. This model has many benefits for parents, their newborns, and the health system.”

The Merge™ training program at QEH NICU was made possible through a partnership between CAN Health Network, Health PEI, the Department of Health and Wellness’ Health Innovation Cluster and Liminality Innovations Inc. 

Media contacts: 
Morgan Martin
Health and Wellness

Dave Atkinson
Health PEI

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