Parent Experience in the NICU

When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip – to Italy…It’s all very exciting. After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go….The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.” “Holland?!?” you say. “What do you mean Holland?
 I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. 
(From “Welcome to Holland” by Emily Perl Kingsley–given to many new NICU parents)

Listening to parents talk about the time of acclimation after their baby is admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit is much like watching Bill Murray in “Lost in Translation” as he navigates Tokyo without knowing Japanese, staring at flashing billboards and listening to conversations and sounds that have no meaning to him. Parents describe a sound track that falls like the noises of a foreign country’s streets on uncomprehending ears: medical acronyms, beeping, chiming, flashing cacophony of alarms, overhead pages, the hiss of ventilators. How do parents create a new script to form their family collectivity? (DuFault, Schau, and Schouten 2015)

Stay tuned for thoughts on these quotes and the parent journey through the NICU, as we research improving the family experience.

The Transition to Consumerism in Health Care

The world of medical care is increasingly one of customer-centered service delivery focus, as the patient/consumer has more choices in the marketplace. However, hospitals may lag in this transition to a better patient experience. This lag is due in part to the lack of choice patient/customers have over where they are admitted for care due to third-party payers. Also, the intensely high-stakes, immediate, highly-trained medical care required of service providers for good outcomes takes precedence in many cases over a customer-centric focus. The foreign high-tech servicescape contributes to increasingly stressed patient/customer, due not only to the emotional state of being hospitalized (or having a hospitalized loved one), but also due to such things as loss of control and often mysterious service delivery practices that have been described as a service delivery “black box” (Berry 2015). Medical service providers, due to their constant immersion in the service environment, may experience what we term “black box service blindness”—an unintentional state of being oblivious to sources of fear and stress in their customers because of being highly acclimated to their surroundings, procedures, and service delivery traditions.

Stay tuned for thoughts on the tensions inherent in this transition.