Building Your Team
People Who Can Provide Support
Often the physician’s role in discharge planning is to ensure the baby has met the physiological discharge criteria and that the family has completed the comprehensive discharge planning program. The physician or designee is generally responsible for providing a warm handoff to the medical home that will assume the care of the infant and family after they leave the NICU.
Baby's Primary Care Team
Primary care providers and discharge coordinators provide ongoing technical and emotional support for families. NICU staff who have established rapport with the family play an important role as the family transitions from NICU to home.
Members of the nursing team who have worked most closely with the family during their baby’s hospitalization will be the best prepared to help the family as they plan for discharge. They not only know the infants’ health history, they also have experience working with the family and may have insights about parents’ perceived strengths and unique vulnerabilities.
NICU Social Workers
NICU social workers have a wide range of responsibilities. Their role is dependent on what other resources are available in each NICU. Some families will not be clear about the role of the NICU social worker and may have misgivings about their involvement. This is especially true for families who have experienced the negative effects involvement with the child welfare system. It is helpful to clearly establish the role of social workers in the NICU setting. Providing all families with written information about available social services and supports and the role of the NICU social worker is advisable early in a family’s NICU stay.
NICU psychologists support families by providing positive therapeutic interventions, emphasizing techniques that support and facilitate parent-infant bonding. They can administer appropriate mental health screenings and provide timely referrals, in support of the families’ health and wellbeing. If your NICU does not have a psychologist, others may assume these roles if they have proper training and expertise.