Parent Buddy Program, Mount Sinai Hospital

On Friday I connected with Ina Ornstein, a Mount Sinai Hospital NICU 'buddy' who is excited to share the program program with Sickkids Hospital NICU parents and staff. In 2004, Ina and her husband underwent multiple proceedures to help her struggling twin girls in utero and then experienced the death of one preemie at four weeks and the survival and wellness of the other. Ina shared features of the very successful program.
  • Mount Sinai NICU Parent Buddy Program currently has about 100 buddies on call; approximately 20 new buddies go through a once a year orientation and it is estimated around 17 continue; about 10 of 15 active parents attend each NICU family advisory meeting
  • hospital side buddy program work is done voluntarily by Marianne Bracht(RSV and transfer coordinator) and Frida Ardal (social worker)
  • training binders have been prepared and there are buddy orientation and training days held on a weekend each year where experienced buddies discuss the buddy role; the role is seen as supporting parents as needed with a focus on helping parents advocate for open communication, staying away from specific medical advise and unreflective criticism of staff actions; the Buddy program is seen by staff as supporting hospital goals of 'open communication' as opposed to being seen as 'interference in care'; questionnaires show the program as being many parent's top pick as to impact and importance as a support role in the NICU
  • the process is that the first nurse leaves a card explaining the program then the second person in (typically the lactation consultant) can ask if the parent had an opportunity to read the card; if a parent expresses an interest, Mariane and Frida can match the family with a buddy within 24 hours; it is the responsibility of the parent buddy to make first contact; after meeting the parents, most communication is by telephone and email; buddys are matched to similar child and family experiences and can be switched out if child/family situation changes considerably; parents can specialise, for example, Ina helps moms who have lost a twin and has helped 6 families and remains in contact with 3 of them
  • Mount Sinai parents are advocating for a paid parent coordinator for the buddy program; Mount Sinai NICU will restart an NICU bereavement program with funding from the Linden Fund which specifically supports Canadian neonatal intensive care units; parents share concerns about communication and transfer from Mount Sinai to Sickkids
  • Mount Sinai Hospital plans to build a new NICU for 2011 with more private family spaces and advisory parents are: supporting calls for at least 200 square feet in NICU for palliative children's beds; wishes to ensure strengthened parent involvement in the new NICU and are engaging the hospital to strengthen family centred care pillars like education, interservice collaboration, counselling, parent capacity building and support a family centred care centre
  • despite the critical mass of parent buddies, successful yearly intake, and proven track record, buddy program parents feel the long term viability of the program is in question until there is structured support from the hospital or Foundation as the two vital staff volunteers will one day retire.

Parent Resources at Mount Sinai Valentine Neonatal Intensive Care Unit
Perinatal Parent Association: mission, history, what we do, signup
Parent Buddy Program introduction and sign up at Mount Sinai Hospital
Glossy version of the parent buddy program at Mount Sinai Hospital.
Study on the Mount Sinai buddy program finds it reduces stress for preemie mothers

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