Neonatal ICU Program Decreases Premature Infants' Length of Stay
A program for parents of premature babies, if implemented early in the neonatal intensive care unit, can reduce parental stress, depression and anxiety, improve parent-infant interactions, and reduce the length of the baby's hospital stay.
Schmalfeldt: A program for parents of premature babies, if implemented early in the neonatal intensive care unit, can reduce parental stress, depression and anxiety, improve parent-infant interactions, and reduce the length of the baby's hospital stay. That's the result of a study funded by the National Institute of Nursing Research which appears in the November issue of Pediatrics. Dr. Patricia A. Grady, Director of the NINR, explains.
Grady: It is primarily an educational and intervention program, and the intent is to help parents be able to deal with this complex situation. It is intended to decrease depression and discouragement, et cetera, but even as important, it's to help them be better able to take care of these very tiny infants.
Schmalfeldt: The study set out to measure the effectiveness of a program called Creating Opportunities for Parent Empowerment - or COPE. It's a four-phase program which gives parents information on the appearance and behavior of premature infants and how Mom and Dad can participate in the baby's care, meet its needs, and make interactions more positive, thereby aiding in the baby's development. In addition to helping parents better cope with the stress of having a premature infant, Dr. Grady said the program also had other benefits.
Grady: One of the important side effects as well was the fact that this approach decreased the hospital stay for the premature infants. In fact, it decreased the stay in the neonatal intensive care unit by almost four days. So if you translate that into cost-effectiveness or the cost savings, it amounts to approximately $5,000 per-child savings. And if you also think big and think optimistically, there are close to a half-million babies born prematurely each year in the United States, so you're looking at - conceivably - over $2 billion savings to the health care system. And that's in addition to having small children getting a much better start on their lives.
Schmalfeldt: Dr. Grady said the study demonstrates the important role nurse scientists can play in not only helping families cope during a highly stressful period in their lives, but also in contributing to a family's long-term quality of life and well being.
Grady: This is an example of the kinds of studies that the National Institute of Nursing Research likes to fund because it improves the health of a certain part of the population in a way that is good for the individuals and the families but is also good for society. It also addresses a major public health issue. One of the benefits is that it does provide cost savings.
Schmalfeldt: For more information log on to http://ninr.nih.gov. From the National Institutes of Health, I'm Bill Schmalfeldt in Bethesda, Maryland.
About This Audio Report
Reporter: Bill Schmalfeldt
Sound Bite: Dr. Patricia A. Grady
Topic: Premature Birth