Patients at University Hospitals Plymouth can now take a virtual tour of the Plymouth Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) thanks to the South West Neonatal Network.
The aim of these tours is to help alleviate stress and anxiety for families around the admission, transfer, and care within a neonatal unit.
The South West Neonatal Network developed these tours following feedback from their Parent Advisory group after it was identified that there was a ‘significant impact and added anxiety’ that arrival at, or transfer to, a Neonatal Unit had on families. This is largely due to the visits being unexpected, in unfamiliar environments, or in areas that were far from home.
One parent who has trialled these virtual tours, said: “I wish there was something like this when we were on the unit it would have helped relax me.”
These tours allow parents to have a degree of control on their journeys, helping them to familiarise themselves with the surroundings and even some of the staff they may interact with on the ward during their stay. Parents who have used this service have said: “Seeing someone on the video you may meet on the unit is reassuring. It’s real, not generic.”
Virtual Unit Tours enable families to see the environments that their infant will be cared for ahead of time in cases such as planned premature births, or at the point of transfer. Heidi Green, Lead Care Coordinator for the region, whose role is to support units to improve care, services and facilities for families said: “In all circumstances it is hoped that being able to familiarise themselves with the environment may both empower a parent and begin to reduce the anxiety associated with entering somewhere unfamiliar, and support them throughout their neonatal journey. With a wealth of information at their fingertips, the tours demystifying the environment and provide videos about the importance of parent touch, feeding their baby and signposting to further resources”
Some parents also reported being told too much or too little information and being able to recall what was said during their babies admission, they can now receive information when they feel ready and as many times as they wish, enhancing communication with the teams caring for their baby.
The benefits of these tours also extend to siblings, close relatives and family friends. They will be able to familiarise themselves with the environment in which the baby is being cared for, and can help support families to answer any questions that may help alleviate any anxiety or fears that may surround the babies wellbeing and care.
Midwifery and obstetric colleagues, visiting staff and other professionals visiting the unit will also benefit from these tours, as they will be able to use it as a resource to help familiarise themselves with the layout and location of the unit.
Plymouth NICU team have also developed a 'Cuddle Bundle' aimed at increasing the awareness of the importance of skin to skin contact between infants and their parents- including increasing brain development, promoting more physiological stability, and creating a powerful bonding moment. The bundle includes staff education, raising parental awareness and tools such as videos to help promote skin to skin. The locally developed bundle is now being rolled out across the South West Neonatal Network, with the resources created being shared for parents to see on all the units' virtual tours.
You can view the virtual tour of the Plymouth NICU here: Plymouth Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (matterport.com)