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Virtual tour launches so families can look inside Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

Last updated: 12/01/2023

Parents of babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at St Michael’s Hospital can now take an online tour to help them prepare for their stay.

The South West Neonatal Network has worked with parents and staff across the region to prepare virtual tours of all the units and neonatal transport services to give families a glimpse behind closed doors.

Feedback from the active South West Network Parent Advisory group identified the impact and anxiety of arriving at or transferring to a Neonatal Unit, either because they were unexpected, unfamiliar and/or in areas far from home.

Virtual Unit Tours enable families to see the environment in which their infant will be cared. This may happen in the weeks leading up to birth if admission to the Neonatal unit is planned, at the point of transfer across the region for tertiary care or on admission to the Neonatal Unit after delivery within UHBW. In all circumstances it is hoped that being able to familiarise themselves with the environment may both empower a parent and begin to reduce the anxiety associated with entering somewhere unfamiliar.

The interactive tours put parents in control, enabling them to explore areas of the unit and receive information as and when they wish and at a pace that suits them.

The virtual tours have been designed to help familiarise parents and families with the neonatal environment and receive a warm welcome from the local teams they will meet. There are explanations of the equipment they will see, information about local services and facilities and videos about their feeding journey. Neonatal parents have also shared their experience and provided messages of support for future families.

St Michael’s Hospital NICU matron, Louise Gould, said:

“As a tertiary Neonatal Unit, families are often being transferred to our unit unexpectedly or after an anxious pregnancy, where there are known concerns about their unborn child/children. Some families have already been on another neonatal unit and are concerned about moving to another area.

“This can be a very scary time for families. It is not always possible to show families around before admission. This virtual tour offers families the opportunity to familiarise themselves with the unit and answers many questions they may have, hopefully alleviating some of the stress they are feeling.

“For families who have been transferred here, these tours offer them the opportunity to familiarise themselves with the unit they are transferring to.

“We are grateful to the Southwest Neonatal ODN team for making these tours accessible to families and staff in our region.”

These tours could also provide a useful resource for:

  • Parents and families of infants requiring transfer within the SW network, who will be able to familiarise themselves with the layout and transport processes that take place.
  • Siblings benefit from being able to view the unit prior to visiting – the tours can support families to answer any questions or help alleviate some of the fears they may have about where their baby brother or sister is.
  • Close relatives or friends who are unable to visit their families can feel reassured by being able to familiarise themselves with the environment in which the baby is being cared for.
  • The unit tours will also support visitors to the family by orientating them to the environment and highlighting what to expect on arrival.
  • Midwifery/obstetric colleagues or other professionals visiting the unit will be able to utilise the resource to help familiarise themselves with the layout/location of the unit prior to visiting.