Research looks at getting baby back home and into the arms of their parents earlier.
When parents look forward to the day their child is finally born the thought of being separated isn’t something they want to consider. However, that is the reality for many.
Premature babies are born each day – and many will have some period of separation from their parents while they are placed in an incubator
The length of the separation is determined by a preterm infant’s ability to gain weight and maintain temperature once moved from an incubator into an open cot.
Currently the standard practice in most hospitals is to transfer infants to an open cot once they have reached a weight of 1800 grams.
But with little research backing this up, Queensland nurse Karen New is looking at the possibility of getting baby back home and into the arms of their parents earlier.
Beginning the Transition from Incubator to Open Cot (TIC) study in 2003, New has been investigating whether infants gain weight faster and are discharged home earlier when transferred to an open cot at 1600 grams.
“There is very little research available, with 1800 grams predominately based on tradition,” New says.
“Delaying transition to an open cot on the basis of not reaching a certain arbitrary weight criterion may result in longer hospitalisation than necessary, interfering with the bonding process between child and parents and increasing the cost of care provided.”
However, New says, transferring infants too soon may also result in extended hospitalisation and again add to cost of care. The need for an infant to return to an incubator after making the transition to an open cot may also result in increased stress and anxiety to the parents and family.
“In theory there are a number of benefits of transferring infants from an incubator earlier than in the past, such as parents being able to give them a cuddle when they want, but we also have to look at the negatives.”
Two previous small studies in America have suggested that infants could be safely and effectively weaned from incubators to open cots at 1600-1700 grams. The studies found that there were no differences between the two groups of infants, in their rate of growth (amount of weight gained) and ability to maintain temperature once transferred to an open cot.
New says the problem with these studies was that they were methodologically flawed and were hard to draw conclusions from.
“The TIC study is important to nursing as nurses are the primary caretakers to both infants and their families, and clinical investigation of this procedure will lead to effective and efficient practices, resulting in reduced workloads for nurses, enhanced parent-infant interaction, increased autonomy for parents and possibly earlier discharge,” she says.
New received a Queensland Nursing Council (QNC) 2008 early career grant of approximately $15,000 to complete her study.
Each year the QNC provides $165,000 in research grant funding to Queensland nurses and midwives to promote and encourage research activity and research-based practice in the profession.
“It’s very important that nurse research is funded so I am very grateful to receive this grant,” she says.
Applications for the 2009 research funding are now open and close February 27. Go to www.qnc.qld.gov.auDo you have an idea for a story?
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