For NICU Professionals - What To Avoid When Working with NICU Parents

Little things professionals should avoid when working with preemie parents.

Compiled By Dianne Maroney, Andrea O’Brien and Sheri DeBari

The experience of parenting a premature infant in the NICU is often overwhelming. Although the health of our baby(s) is our greatest concern, in the day to day life in the NICU, it is the little things that medical professionals do that make a difference. Preemie parents from all over the world came together (via the Preemie-L group) to create a list for nurses and doctors that will help them understand the intricate needs and desires of parents and families. Please feel free to print this list and give it to anyone who may benefit from it.

Please Do Not...

  1. Don’t: Call me "Mom." Please ask me what I would prefer to be called.
  2. Don’t: Move the baby without telling me ahead of time, or at least meeting me at the door.
  3. Don’t: Tell me how I should be feeling or that I “need to be patient.”
  4. Don’t: Dismiss or diminish my concerns. I am not used to seeing my baby have bradycardias or color changes.
  5. Don’t: Assume that I don't care for or love my baby if I don’t touch him. I may be very scared or overwhelmed.
  6. Don’t: Tell me my baby had a bradycardia because I was touching him, feeding him, or doing something wrong.
  7. Don’t: Please never treat me as if I am stupid. All of the medical terms and information are very difficult to understand and comprehend at times, especially since I am probably feeling a tremendous amount of stress.
  8. Don’t: Write harsh judgements about me in the nurse’s notes, unless the information you are recording is known to you without question from both observation and communication.
  9. Don’t: Assume anything about me or my family if we are unable to visit regularly. My family may be very loving and supportive, but cannot come to the NICU for other reasons.
  10. Don’t: Sound annoyed or make insensitive comments when I call to check on my baby. The phone is sometimes my only connection to my precious baby.
  11. Don’t: Do the tasks that I have already been doing (bath, diapers, feedings, etc.) if you know I am on the way to the nursery. It takes away what little parenting I can do.
  12. Don’t: Act as if breast-feeding is not crucial for my baby. There is enough scientific evidence of its importance to preemies that it should be encouraged to breastfeed. However, if I am unable to produce milk, please do not make me feel inadequate by comparing me to all the other mothers who have no problem with lactating.
  13. Don’t: Talk loudly or keep the lights on unnecessarily.
  14. Don’t: Please be careful to not share information about a baby with the wrong person. Please check and double check that you have the correct information with the correct parent.
  15. Don’t: Talk about a baby in a negative way when the parents are gone. It is morally wrong, very unprofessional, and may also hurt other parent’s feelings (wondering what they say about my baby when I am not here).
  16. Don’t: Try to instill your personal views (philosophies, religion, or ethics) on us. Allow us the same freedom to choose and have our views, as you were allowed to choose and have yours. (This includes miracles happening in the NICU.)
  17. Don’t: Be afraid of my emotions, or of your own.
  18. Don’t: Let me travel this difficult journey alone.