Newborn Family Support Team
In July 1989, the Commonwealth government provided funding for the formation of the Neonatal Early Discharge and Home Support Team. The aim was to move care from the hospital into the home covering an area of 15 kilometres radius from RPA Women and Babies Hospital. The team has continued to provide such care now with the revised name of Newborn Family Support Team (NFST).
The team comprises three fulltime positions staffed by four neonatal intensive care nurses (two full-time, two part-time) who are supported by a multidisciplinary team. This team includes a paediatrician, a physiotherapist and a developmental psychologist. The Family Support Nurses (FSNs) provide a connection between the hospital and the community. The FSNs facilitate education for parents to prepare them for the eventual discharge of their baby home from RPA Newborn Care. Discharge preparation for some babies includes the home gavage feeding programme whereby well preterm babies can be discharged home from hospital while still requiring some tube feeds, aiming to establish all sucking feeds at home. This programme has been well received by the parents who participated as it meant having their baby home in some instances up to three weeks earlier.
Once the baby is discharged, the NFST provides 24-hour, 7 days per week telephone support service for any concerns parents may have about their baby now at home. Parents have reported greater reassurance having this phone number which is supported by home visiting. The support at home provided by the FSN can allay anxiety or fears the parents may experience. Home visits by the FSN allow for an ongoing assessment of the baby to identify any problems that may occur and give guidance to families about what process to follow if their baby requires review by their family doctor or other health professionals. The FSN will link the family to the local Early Childhood Centre nurses after the NFST service is no longer required.
The NFST conducts a post discharge parent support group called “Baby Play Gym” that is offered to parents of babies in Newborn Care. The Baby Play Gym is a series of six-week sessions that run throughout the year and topics include child development, childhood illnesses, teaching basic newborn resuscitation, baby massage, sleep and settling strategies and discussion with a child and family psychiatrist about having your baby discharged home from a newborn intensive care unit. Baby Play Gym has proven to be a valuable support network for those having shared the experience of an intensely emotional period in their life.
The Newborn Family Support Team has proven to be both instrumental in helping families cope with the needs of their baby discharged home from Newborn Care and a cost-effective program due to saved hospital bed days.