SPOKANE, Wash. – Having a newborn in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) is a stressful experience for any parent. When baby finally gets to go home, joy is accompanied by more stress – how to keep the still frail infant safe and well?
 
For years, Jean Schlittenhart – a master of nursing student and 32-year neonatal intensive care nurse – taught the discharge class at Deaconess Medical Center. It provided parents with information on topics ranging from car seat safety and bathing an infant to CPR and how to recognize when something’s wrong.
 
But last year, her hour-long live presentations were replaced by “NICU Experience: Going Home,” a 35-minute DVD she produced as her graduate project with help from multimedia services at the College of Nursing.
 
“I found that only 50 percent of parents would come to the live presentation,” Schlittenhart said. Attendance among teen parents and women over 35 was especially low and suggested that busy lifestyles and a feeling of age-related disconnect might be a factor.
 
Having a nurse go over the information with parents one on one directly affecting the workload for nurses at the NICU. So two years ago, Schlittenhart set out to create a DVD that would be available for viewing 24/7 and would show different role models for parents to relate to.
 
She made a content plan based on national guidelines with help from nursing faculty members Denise Smart and Cecile Oliver and with input from an interprofessional team at Deaconess consisting of an audiologist, speech pathologist and occupational therapist.
 
Multimedia services employees Jerry Reynolds and Matthew Blythe handled scripting, editing and filming for the project, much of which was filmed in the practice lab in the Nursing Building. Several nursing students – representing different age groups and backgrounds – volunteered to be featured in the video with their newborns.
 
Although she hasn’t fully analyzed use of the DVD yet, Schlittenhart is confident it has helped make the information available to more parents. Her tracking efforts have shown that there is a fair amount of late night, weekend and holiday use of the DVD at Deaconess. She also has seen firsthand that parents respond well to the video, which neatly packages information into short, manageable modules.
 
“If parents watch the DVD early on, they’re able to put into practice the things they’re learning… and I think it has increased their bonding and handling of the infant,” Schlittenhart said.
 
Earlier this month, she successfully defended the project before a committee, and she is on track to graduate in May. But her project is not yet done. A Spanish-language version of the video is in production.
 
In addition, Schlittenhart hopes to obtain grant funding to produce a 15-minute take-home version to provide to at-risk parents. She also is looking to secure funding to promote the video as a discharge tool to other hospitals, including making copies available to smaller hospitals in rural areas.