Since opening in 1968, Regional One Health’s Sheldon B. Korones Newborn Center successfully has treated more than 45,000 premature babies thanks to a multidisciplinary approach to patient care. And for more than 25 of those years, the Newborn Center has been part of an international organization of neonatal intensive care units, the Vermont Oxford Network.
The network’s mission is “to improve the quality and safety of medical care for newborn infants and their families through a coordinated program of research, education and quality improvement projects.” Part of that effort is Vermont Oxford Collaboratives, which are opportunities to meet face to face with other hospitals to learn best practices on specific projects.
“The beauty of it is we don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” said Kelley Smith, Newborn Center nurse manager. “If another hospital does well in late-onset infections, for example, I can see what they’re doing to improve infection rates. We have learned from others and others have learned from us.”
The current collaborative is a two-year project that kicked off in January. The aim of the collaborative focus is to improve outcomes in very low birth-rate babies by establishing a small baby unit by the end of 2019. It includes better understanding how to involve parents from the first day, and reducing the rates of chronic lung disease and intraventricular hemorrhage.
Mary Catherine Burke, manager of events and public engagement for Regional One Health Foundation, also has joined Regional One Health’s Vermont Oxford Network team as a parent adviser. She delivered her son at Regional One Health and he received care in the Korones Newborn Center.
Burke’s role is two-fold. First, she participates with the Regional One Health team on the collaborative project where she provides a parent voice. Secondly, she’s spearheading the formation of a family advisory council for the Newborn Center. The council will serve as a support system for future NICU parents while also providing new ideas to enhance service to families.
Burke said she’s leaned on others in the Vermont Oxford Network in creating the advisory council.
“That network is huge for us because I can ask how they formed their parent advisories and what structures work best,” she said. “In the network we want to all share information. We don’t want to reinvent the wheel. It’s huge to lean on other NICUs to share best practices.”
While creating the advisory council, Burke also is seeking input from current NICU parents. She created a parent survey to better understand their experiences. That baseline data will inform future strategies for parent involvement in care.
Having family input is invaluable to providing the best care possible to the Newborn Center’s patients.
“When we first started doing Vermont Network Collaboratives the family wasn’t a part of it,” Smith said. “They learned families could be a huge asset to improving patient care.
“Parents are on top of their baby’s care, which is what we want,” Smith continued. “We want them to be an advocate for their baby. And with Mary Catherine’s involvement, it’s good to have somebody who had their baby in our unit and who had experiences here. What we think parents need might not be necessarily what they need from us. Having parents involved helps us to see the entire picture.”