Feeling out of the loop of your baby’s NICU care? This may be your answer!

November 11, 2022

I'm katie, OTD, OTR/L, NTMTC, CNT & founder of blooming littles

Guess who has the greatest influence on a baby's NICU stay? It's YOU! Let's get you the tools, info, and resources needed to create positive NICU experiences, one interaction at a time.

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Being a NICU parent brings an entirely new lens to “mom” and “dad”. To stepping into the parenting role. It’s different. There are lines and tubes. You’re building confidence in taking care of a baby that’s medically fragile, discussing decisions with a medical team and learning new terms and words on a daily basis. It can be confusing and tricky to keep up. That’s why there’s a possible solution for you if you have questions to ask and have a deep desire to be “in-the-know!”. NICU Rounds. Let’s talk about what NICU rounds are, when they happen, what you need, and some questions you can ask. 

What are medical rounds?

Medical rounds are a daily meeting of your babies care team to talk through your baby’s current status, any overnight changes, current goals, both short and long term, and any concerns. Generally, several different medical staff members are present, including your baby’s dietitian, nurse practitioner, neonatologist, bedside nurse, respiratory therapist, or neonatal therapist.

If your baby is in a large teaching hospital, it’s possible there will be more people at rounds, including residents and medical interns (it can feel like a lot of people, but you belong there!). If you are in a smaller NICU, then it may just be the physician, you and your baby’s nurse having a conversation. Medical rounds should occur at your babies bedside, so you have the chance to participate as their parent.

If multiple types of medical care providers are involved, then each discipline will have a chance to talk about their goals for your baby. For example, the dietitian may talk about the trends in your baby’s weight gain and which formula or nutritional needs they have and need etc. The neonatologist is going to talk about their overall growth and development, including the progression of your baby’s care like weaning of oxygen, the timing of their feeds, and any behavioral or bedside staff concerns that come up.

Can parents be present at rounds?

Absolutely! 100%.

If you’re a NICU parent, you don’t have to be present at rounds as the parent, but if you can be…I would definitely recommend it.

Part of involving the family in NICU care is encouraging family participation during medical rounds at your baby’s bedside. 

Some benefits to being present at rounds:

  • The chance to listen and learn about what goals the medical team has for your baby. This will help you develop an understanding of where your baby is on their NICU journey, helping you know what to celebrate and look forward to seeing your baby accomplish.
  • Allows you to ask questions. It can be tough getting one-on-one time with your baby’s medical team if you are in a larger unit, or even a small one. Knowing you get the chance to meet directly with their team and ask any questions you have is really valuable.
  • You develop greater confidence interacting with the medical staff and advocating for your baby. Growing comfortable with your baby’s care and understanding all the medical language surrounding you is difficult. Listening in on medical rounds really helps you get familiar with the NICU lingo!
  • You can express all of your concerns! This can be a tough thing to do, because let’s be honest…the medical team and neonatologist can be really intimidating. BUT. You have a gut feeling for a reason. If you have concerns about your child, if something feels off…this is the time to bring it up. 

When do rounds happen?

They can happen at any time of the day! But, there’s a really good chance they’re happening in the morning sometime. This lets the team learn how the previous 12 hours went and make any changes that need to happen for the day regarding your baby’s care.

It’s pretty common for the medical team to round at a similar time each day, making it a little bit easier to plan and be present at the bedside during those hours. 

Do I need to bring anything with me to rounds?

Nope! Just yourself, plus a list of questions that you’ve been building up to ask.

 It can be helpful to keep a notebook with you, or a notes section on your phone so you can easily enter in questions as you think them up. They’ll be easy to access when it comes time to ask. 

What questions should I ask?

You can ask anything you want. In fact, we encourage it! From, “What does IVH mean?”, to, “When can we try breast-feeding?”…nothing is off limits.

If there’s something you’ve been wondering, no matter how big or small…this is an amazing time to ask.

  • What are your biggest goals for her right now?
  • What does ___________ mean? How will that impact him down the road?
  • What are your biggest concerns right now?
  • I’ve been thinking about __________. Is that something I need to be worried about?

NICU rounds are the medical teams daily visit to see your baby. In many units it happens around the same time each morning, giving you an opportunity to arrive and visit with the team for a group discussion about your babe. 

If you’re new to the NICU, or are curious about your unit’s rounding procedures…ask your bedside nurse for the details. Learning more about your baby’s care and meeting the team can help ease anxieties and boost your confidence as you grow more comfortable in the NICU space. 

Step forward. Ask questions. You belong in that conversation. You’re so important.

Have you been to rounds with your baby? What did you think? Any tips for other NICU families?

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