NICU Family Support® program

March of Dimes NICU Family Support is your resource to improve the quality of the patient and family experience in your unit. Our services are built around three main areas:

Educating Families

Providing education and information to families is one of the most meaningful ways to engage them in creating a positive experience while they are in the NICU.  NICU Family Support provides multiple ways for your families to receive critical information before, during and after a hospital stay.

Printed Materials:

We make it easy for you to provide the most appropriate, relevant, and useful information as part of your patient and family experience in the NICU. Our materials are reviewed and enhanced with updated content and NICU family stories annually.

We have materials to support all NICU admissions, regardless of length of stay, acuity, or diagnosis. Materials are available in English & Spanish, and are written in plain language with an average literacy level of 7th grade.

NICU Family Support booklets provide in-depth information across a variety of topics and are a great bedside teaching tool.  Titles include: In the NICU for a Shorter Stay and The NICU Journey.

The NICU Journey: Caring for Your Baby in the NICU and at Home is designed to meet the needs of NICU families whose anticipated length of stay is longer than two weeks. Includes information for families that is helpful during the NICU stay, the transition home and after arriving home.

  • Contains information for all families in the NICU, including those with a premature baby, those with a birth defect and/or those requiring surgery.
  • Includes family stories, in addition to quotes, to give current NICU families hope for the future of their baby.
  • Provides information on staff job functions, common health conditions, equipment and tests in the NICU.

In the NICU for a Shorter Stay: A Guide for Parents provides information tailored to the needs of families with a baby in the NICU for less than 2 weeks.

  • Covers common medical conditions that can result in a shorter NICU stay, feeding in the NICU, NICU staff job functions and information for getting ready to go home and at home.
  • Includes family stories, in addition to quotes, to give current NICU families hope for the future of their baby.
  • Complements The NICU Journey booklet. If a family starts out as a shorter stay family, but needs to stay longer, The NICU Journey booklet is an appropriate follow up.

Digital Materials:

March of Dimes provides trusted information to improve families’ experiences during what can be a stressful time via the My NICU Baby® & Mi Bebé en la NICU apps. These apps are available for free through the App Store and Google Play and help families find peace of mind during and after their NICU stay, with answers to questions and helpful resources. Visit mynicubaby.org to learn more.

Parent Education Curriculum:

March of Dimes has created a framework for standardized parent education to establish best practices and consistent delivery. NICU Family Support Core Curriculum parent education classes are designed to support the information needs of your NICU’s diverse families, while improving patient safety, communication with families and patient satisfaction. The Core Curriculum includes seven topics: 

  • Caring for Your Baby in the NICU
  • Caring for Your Baby at Home
  • Caring for Your Family Means Caring for Yourself
  • Close to Me® (skin-to-skin)
  • Infant Nutrition
  • Keeping Germs Away from Your Baby
  • Watch Me Grow: Baby’s Development

“After we completed the core curriculum class, a dad told me he learned so much about his baby. He thanked me for ‘teaching me what my baby is trying to say.’ ”  —NICU Physical Therapist, Louisiana, on the Watch Me Grow March of Dimes Core Curriculum class content

Educating NICU Staff

NICU Family Support is committed to increasing the knowledge of NICU staff by providing on-going educational opportunities. Web-based, on demand, presentations from the March of Dimes Training Institute are provided, which include free CNEs. Additional Hot Topic presentations are provided on current NICU trends (CNEs not available). Through the Training Institute and Hot Topic presentations, NICU staff receive tools to work effectively with families and each other. Click here to learn more about the March of Dimes Training Institute. Sample Hot Topics presentations include: 

  • Palliative care
  • Music therapy
  • Family and infant mental health
  • Boundaries in the NICU
  • Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome
  • Milk banking
  • LGTBQ families in the NICU
  • Supporting families of different faith traditions

"The monthly presentations have made a profound impact on how staff handle themselves and handle each other." Megan Jones, BSN, RN, CPN, Nurse Manager, Children's National Health System.

Improving Patient and Family Experience

Partnering with hospitals to improve the patient and family experience is at the heart of NICU Family Support programming. We collaborate with NICUs in a variety of ways to continually improve the experience for patients and families in your NICU.

Communication:

Each site is part of the NICU Family Support network, providing access for hospitals to collaborate on shared goals, challenges and resources. Program staff provide recommendations on family centered language for hospital signage, materials and policies. 

Graduate Family Engagement:

March of Dimes provides resources to engage graduate families through an Advisory Council or a Voice of the Patient Panel to ensure the graduate family perspective is included in NICU policies and decisions. Toolkits are provided to help hospitals integrate family stories/voices into their program and quality improvement efforts.

Individualized Patient Experience Goals:

The program provides quality improvement consulting on unit specific goals to impact patient experience and family centered care, including annual Patient Experience Projects. This project planning tool guides sites as they work on a quality improvement project chosen by NICU leadership and graduate family advisors. This demonstrates the impact of interventions and improvements on the patient and family experience in the NICU. A few outcomes of previous Patient Experience Projects include:

  • Increased parent presence in the NICU
  • Increased sibling inclusion in the NICU experience
  • Increased support for skin-to-skin care
  • Policy creation for cell phone usage
  • Inclusion of parents in medical rounds
  • Improved infection control policies
  • Practices to support bereaved families

Patient Satisfaction:

NICU Family Support sites host activities and events each month, such as dinners or holiday events, to help families form supportive relationships and bond with their baby. These events and activities are a key component to improving satisfaction throughout the NICU journey. Robust connection to the NICU Family Support network includes sharing of templates, ideas and planning resources to expand the diversity of opportunities for engaging families.

Reducing Gaps in Services:

March of Dimes ensures the quality of the NICU Family Support program by tracking and reporting on how the program contributes to the experience of families in the NICU. Each NICU Family Support site submits data monthly, which is aggregated and analyzed for trends and best practices. Analyzing trends in real time provides the opportunity for the development of new resources to meet the evolving needs of hospitals and families. See our partners’ photo gallery for images of March of Dimes hosted events, parent education hours and quality improvement successes.

Partnering Together

Our intent is that the powerful impact of this program will last far into the future, and families will know that with you, March of Dimes supported them when they needed it most. For more information on how your hospital can partner with March of Dimes through the NICU Family Support program, contact us

Carter’s is a proud supporter of NICU Family Support programs and parent education booklets.