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Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) Virtual visits

CUMH neonatal nurses Lorna Coleman and Cora Shorten with a NICU baby and the iPad.

A virtual visitation platform is providing comfort to parents of babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) of Cork University Maternity Hospital (CUMH) with video messages and regular updates sent to them directly.

Nicola Carey is a parent whose son is in the NICU. Her family have been using the virtual visitation platform to check on his progress. “It is great, as his Dad can see the progress he is making on a daily basis. It is great to see him in the morning before I visit. It has been amazing for the anxious grandparents to see him and know he is doing well. It has been brilliant for us,” she said.

Cork University Maternity Hospital has introduced the secure video messaging platform in the NICU in partnership with the INFANT Research Centre at University College Cork.

Under normal circumstances, having a baby in the neonatal unit can be a time of significant emotional distress and anxiety for parents. In the early days of the pandemic, significant restrictions on access to the neonatal unit meant that only mums could visit which added to the stress parents were facing. CUMH wanted to help provide comfort to parents during this worrying period.

The safe and secure, virtual visitation platform can be accessed at any time, from any device and is available at no cost to the parents. NICU staff, coordinated by Neonatal Nurse Manager, Lucille Bradfield, record short video messages and updates of each baby which can then be sent directly to parents via the vCreate platform.

It is simple to use and parents can easily download videos to share with siblings, grandparents and other family members.

Commenting on the system, Professor Gene Dempsey, Consultant Neonatologist at CUMH and Principal Investigator at INFANT, UCC said, “This is a fantastic initiative which we hope will go some way to reducing the significant stress that parents are now facing. Whether it’s for a day or two admission, or indeed many months for our most immature babies, we believe this system, along with its educational material, will alleviate some of the worry that families face in these difficult times.”

Ireland South Women & Infants Directorate are aiming for the neonatal units in the other three maternity units in the group to have this new technology installed.

Under the leadership of Brendan Murphy, Clinical Lead Neonatology, Ireland South eased visitor restrictions in all neonatal units towards the end of May, allowing dads as well as mums to visit their babies, as long as it is one parent at a time. Staff have been particularly grateful for the support and cooperation from parents as they work in partnership with them to care for tiny babies during these challenging times.