10 Jan 2012

Communication in the NICU: The Blue Ivy Incident

If you're not up to date on the news events over the last few days, let me update you: Beyonce and Jay-Z's baby, Blue Ivy is born!  In like a lion and out like a lamb, is a common phrase that seems fitting.  In comes little baby Blue, loud and proud--Divalicious!  She was discharged and made a quiet exit from hospital today.  Her name is splashed all over the news and tabloids, Twitter lit up as soon as Apple's mommy, Gwyneth sent out her very rare tweet that Blue had arrived.

A newly renovated maternity ward just for Blue and mom.  A unit shut down for one lady and her infant and the crew that comes with them. A battalion of security ready to take down the first NICU parent wanting access to their child that happened to dare be born or moved to the same hospital as baby Blue.  A new family trying to shelter their newborn from reality?

It's hard to imagine anyone having the ability or the audacity to attempt to manipulate multiple parents and staff members of a hospital in order to have privacy.  Have you ever heard of pulling the curtain or shutting the door for privacy?  I'm not sure what makes a starlet so much more important than the average Joe and his wife, that a hospital would see it fitting to close a maternity ward and cordon off areas when the Carters wanted to escort family through the corridors or go get some crushed ice in the kitchen.

Another thing that makes no sense is, if the NICU was on the 6th floor of the hospital and Ms. Knowles was labouring and delivering on the 4th floor, why would the Carters' security be hovering around the 6th floor, where they really had no business being? It all sounds fishy...Maybe she was in a high risk delivery room on the 6th floor at the time of delivery? Who knows?

An idealist at heart, I'd like to think that the Carters had the decency and respect to keep to themselves and not worry what was going on outside their labour and delivery room.  I hope they would not put any additional stress on any new mother or father, given that the experience of having a baby is stressful and scary enough, let alone having premature babies or ill babies having to stay in a NICU. 

Unfortunately, I do think there is some truth to the matter.  It sounds like there was a lack of communication, yet again.  It seems only reasonable that the NICU management, the hospital management and anyone that oversees policy and allows this type of situation to take place, would also ensure all those involved are advised and kept in the loop.  If the hospital staff was preparing the details on Friday before Beyonce's grand arrival on Saturday, they had at least 12 hours or so to put up notice in the hospital hallways, by the NICU entrance, in the waiting rooms and anywhere else a piece of paper and tape can be stuck, to inform anyone that cared that there would be some unusual circumstances that may cause certain areas of the hospital to be inaccessible for short periods of time.  The NICU manager could have called a couple of impromptu meetings inside the unit to advise the parents in order to avoid any shock and surprise.

When we had our second NICU stay with our preemie twins, the hospital would post signs as soon as they could if something unusual was expected to happen.  For example, we were advised about 1 week in advance that the floors of the NICU family room were going to be buffed and polished, and therefore we would not have access to the family room for about 12 hours. Something this simple was communicated.  Why?  The NICU management were aware that sudden change or unexpected things can be frustrating for families who are already dealing with a very frustrating and tumultuous time.  Little inconveniences can add up when you feel like your world is falling apart to begin with.

These are the details and the feelings that perhaps the Carter family didn't have the forethought or knowledge to be aware of.  It was the responsibility of hospital management to think like a NICU parent would and think like any mother in labour would and ensure a positive outcome for all.  If the Carter family wanted privacy and discretion, well they certainly failed at that!

Where did communication fail?

The Carters - It seems they didn't ask or care to ask questions about how their presence would impact other families just like themselves or families who are in the hospital under different circumstances.

The Hospital - It seems, like I said, that they didn't paint a very good picture to the Carters as to how their circus would inevitably cause disruption and potential trauma to the families who have unwell children or even the families who had or are having uncomplicated deliveries.  The hospital seems to have made several exceptions to several rules and they should have flipped it back on the Carters when it came to certain situations--such as continuing to allow NICU parents in and out privileges to the NICU as usual.  The families of NICU babies may be experiencing symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  A NICU parent's state of mind can be very fragile after experiencing a premature delivery, the loss of a spouse, terrible complications and so on.  So to throw in unnecessary roadblocks to accessing the NICU would only heighten some NICU parents' emotions and potential inability to cope.

The Complainant, Mr. Coulon - It seems, rather than approach the NICU manager or the hospital management or a patient advocate, he approached a news reporter.  Perhaps this was a fatal error on his part, because now he has many people questioning the legitimacy of his claims.  Why wouldn't a ticked off father stomp down the hall to the NICU management office?  Why wouldn't he call the actual hospital security to address the situation? Maybe he wasn't in the right state of mind at first, because really, I would be shocked too if some big security guy approached me and told me I can't get through.  The bottom line is this upset parent chose not to address it with the correct people and made the issue public, thus making his family's hospital stay and the Carters' hospital say one for the record.  After his second block, and time to think about this situation, he should have asked to speak to someone to resolve the situation or hear him out. 

Here I am, way up in Canada, and I can tell you he should have called the Patient Relations Department to speak to a Patient Representative who is available to help resolve any concerns and problems related to care, explain hospital policies and procedures, and answer questions patients/families may have regarding Health Care Proxies.  It is located in the main lobby of the hospital or people can call the department at extension 42095.   Given the fact they are open weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m and the issue seems to have started on the weekend, his next step could have been to call Ext. 42468 and ask to have the hospital's nursing supervisor on duty paged. I found this information in seconds on the hospital's website...way up here in Canada...

The breakdown or lack of communication always winds up ending with a lot of finger pointing, name calling and failure to accept responsibility.  There is also nothing worse than a complainer who hasn't tried to think of a resolution to the problem or doesn't address it in an appropriate way.  Like I said, I'm an idealist. 

In the long run, it would be nice to see these three parties come together, pose for a picture and shake hands and make peace.  It would also be nice to see Jay-Z donate the proceeds of his new single about his new little bundle of joy to the NICU, which just might need a nice facelift, new equipment or a freshen up too.

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