The month of September is NICU Awareness Month. It is a campaign designed to illuminate the various challenges faced in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs). For all involved in the care for premature and critically ill babies, NICU Awareness Month means recognition of their collective experiences.
What is NICU Awareness Month?
NICU Awareness Month is marked by a series of days dedicated to celebrating specific NICU causes. They promote encouragement and support of NICU staff, families, and patients.
During this month, stories are shared via social media, honouring infants, their siblings and their care providers. There are also donations made in support of the families of NICU babies, as well as notes of appreciation delivered to NICU staff.
Observing the events of neonatal awareness month is about bringing hope and comfort to NICU families. It is also about contributing to the expansion of resources and improving neonatal intensive care.
How to celebrate NICU professionals
Neonatal Nurses Day and NICU Staff Appreciation Day are the two days of NICU awareness primarily dedicated to acknowledging NICU staff in September.
Observed on 15th September, Neonatal Nurses Day focuses on thanking NICU nurses and honouring them for their tireless work.
The commitment of NICU nurses commonly extends beyond the provision of specialist care to infants. While working their long and stressful shifts, they are also called upon to counsel parents through difficult situations.
For families who wish to show their gratitude for a nurse’s commitment, Neonatal Nurses Day provides the opportunity. By sending a thank-you message, families can convey to the nurse how they profoundly impacted their lives. This day also presents the opportunity to nominate a nurse for the Nurture Award, awarded annually as part of neonatal awareness month.
Of course, a functioning NICU requires the coordinated efforts of many individuals. These include doctors, psychologists, therapists, nutritionists, cleaners and many more. NICU Staff Appreciation Day is celebrated on 28th September to honour all NICU staff.
It is now a NICU Awareness Month tradition to show appreciation by delivering notes of gratitude to the staff at local NICUs. Other initiatives include:
- sending gifts, treats or a meal to NICU staff
- sharing stories using the hashtag #nicuawareness
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Supporting NICU families
For the families of NICU patients, the experience can be overwhelming. NICU Awareness Month helps to highlight the many emotions, such as fear and anxiety, felt by NICU parents.
Knowing that they have the support and encouragement of others often makes it easier for parents to deal with the difficulties they face.
During neonatal awareness month, offering support to NICU families is promoted by NICU Giving Day on September 27th. The primary initiatives observed on this day include:
- hosting a donation drive to provide useful items for NICU families.
- sponsoring a meal to be delivered to a NICU for families
- volunteering with a NICU support organisation
When a child is admitted to a NICU, it is often a stressful time for the brothers and sisters of the NICU infants as well. Sibling Support Day, observed on September 29, is about offering support and acknowledgment to NICU siblings in the following ways:
- sharing the stories of NICU siblings via social media using the hashtag #nicuawareness
- hosting a book drive to deliver books to your local NICU
- assembling busy boxes including colouring books, puzzles and quiet toys to keep NICU siblings busy.
Honouring NICU infants via NICU awareness
NICU Awareness Month concludes on NICU Awareness Day (September 30th), a day dedicated to honouring all NICU infants. One common way to honour NICU infants is to wear the NICU awareness month colour - green. Utilising social media, participants can also share NICU stories using hashtag #nicuawareness. Other activities include volunteering for a NICU or organisation and providing acts of kindness to NICU families.
NICU Remembrance Day, on September 26th, honours the 5 to 10 per cent of NICU infants who do not survive. The initiatives set up for this day are designed to ease parents’ grief by remembering their lost children. They include:
- random acts of kindness
- making donations
- sending cards to someone in remembrance of their baby.
How NICU Awareness Month contributes to the improvement of NICU infant care
As interest in neonatal intensive care is generated by NICU Awareness Month, developments in infant care also receive exposure. As such, the importance of skin-to-skin contact between parents and infants, known as kangaroo care, now enjoys more of the spotlight. Read more about kangaroo care.
The same is true of Family Integrated Care (FICare), a model aiming to deliver improved care to infants through greater parent involvement. Learn more about FICare.
More exposure to these new approaches means more awareness of their natural impediments. The monitoring equipment used for infants, such as electrodes and wires, is one such barrier to skin-to-skin contact.
By increasing awareness of technologies like Bambi Belt, which break down the barriers to improved infant care, neonatal awareness month plays its role providing optimised care to critically ill infants.