Covenant Health
This week's reflection

This week's reflection

Teamwork begins by building trust. And the only way to do that is to overcome our need for invulnerability.

Patrick Lencioni

Helping premature babies get home sooner with family-centred care

June 02, 2016

Cory and Erica Thomas hold their premature twins Jacob and Arianna, born at the Grey Nuns Hospital on May 23, at 32 weeks and four days. The Grey Nuns and Misericordia Hospitals are two of the sites involved in the research

Erica and Cory Thomas can remember the day it all started vividly.

“We had initially come in to be monitored because my wife had a headache. We knew she had high blood pressure but were hoping to be sent home with some medication,” says Cory.

Instead, the doctor came back and told the couple an emergency c-section was needed for Erica and her twin babies’ safety.

At 32 weeks and four days, Jacob Thomas made his appearance on May 23rd at 5:09 pm weighing 4lbs, 13oz.  A minute later, his twin sister Arianna came into the world weighing 4lbs, 1oz.

Ever since their birth they have been involved in the care of their twins every step of the way. They’re part of a new research project to help families leave the hospital sooner with healthier preterm babies.

“Family-integrated care empowers the parents to improve their knowledge, skills and confidence in taking care of a premature infant,” says Jill Larocque, Neonatal Nurse Practitioner.  “Parents are often under stress and afraid to take their babies home because they aren’t involved from the start with the baby’s care.”

Alberta has one of the highest rates of pre-term births in Canada. One in twelve babies is born preterm in the province. Parents must leave their preterm babies in the hospital to fully develop and become healthy enough to take home. Larocque and Dr. Khalid Aziz, MD, hope to change that model.

Dr. Khalid Aziz, MD and Jill Larocque, M.Ed

The have a plan called Family Integrated Care (FICare).  FICare proposes a new way to integrate the family into the care of their preterm baby. With the guidance of nurses, family members are integrated into the health care team and provide routine care, such as holding, feeding and changing their preterm baby.

The team is hoping to show that babies looked after in this way will be discharged from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) in less time, and that the families will be better equipped to look after their preterm infants. “Currently, the length of stay for a preterm baby in a level II NICU is 16 days,” says Aziz, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry. “We’re hoping to reduce that number by at least ten per cent. We want parents to feel both confident and competent in the care of their preterm babies when they go home.”

Erica and Cory are hoping to be home with the twins in the next couple of weeks.

“We’re excited to get them home. We have two more little ones at home, a 5 year-old and 2 year-old that are craving for our attention as well. Right now it feels like we have two families, our family back home and the family here at the Grey Nuns Hospital. I’m just ready to have my family together,” says Erica.

The care of preterm infants represents the largest cost in pediatric health care at $35 million a year in Alberta.

See media Coverage below:

CTV News
Edmonton Journal
CBC News
Alberta Innovates Health Solutions