Staff Education and Support

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What are four ways that NICU staff can be supported?

  1. Staff can be supported by the involvement of a pastoral care person, or chaplain, on the NICU team. Pastoral care workers can help staff become more aware of their own values, and how their religious background and spiritual perspective may affect their interactions with patients.
  2. An ethics committee can help staff minimize the occurrence of moral distress by helping them negotiate end-of-life decision-making with families.
  3. Offering debrief sessions to NICU staff after difficult cases, including those that are ethically and morally challenging, or the death of a patient, can help staff sort out their feelings and derive support.
  4. NICU mental health professionals, including social workers and psychologists, can support staff through acting as a liaison between staff and families, and/or through discussions of family dynamics and family/staff interactions at a variety of settings.



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Recommendations for enhancing psychosocial support of NICU parents through staff education and support Read just the recommendations by the Workgroup on Psychosocial Support of NICU Parents, or read the full article from the December, 2015 Supplement to Journal of Perinatology.

Bibliography for Staff Education:  This contains a comprehensive listing of references on the content of staff education including parents’ emotional responses to the NICU setting, their increased risk for perinatal mood disorders and PTSD, paradigms for improving communication skills, use of simulation for communication skills training, and information on cultural competence.  It was compiled by the National Perinatal Association Workgroup on Recommendations for Psychosocial Support of NICU Parents.

Bibliography on Staff Support:  This contains a comprehensive listing of references on burnout, compassion fatigue, pastoral care and chaplaincy support, and the effects of NICU design on staff satisfaction.  It was compiled by the National Perinatal Association Workgroup on Recommendations for Psychosocial Support of NICU Parents.

Prevalence Perinatal Mood Disorders – Segre: This is an informational handout describing the prevalence of maternal depression, anxiety and posttraumatic stress syndrome are reviewed.  Written by Lisa Segre, PhD, psychologist.

Case Study from a NICU Ethics Committee:  A case which was brought to the Ethics Committee at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia is discussed to illustrate how such a committee can provide both parents and staff with support.  Written by Rachel Ponzek, RN, from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

       Guide to Debriefing Sessions in NICU: Holding debriefing sessions is one way to support staff in processing their    own feelings of grief after difficult cases or those involving infant loss.



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NANN Statement on RN Staffing in the NICU

Culturally Effective Care Toolkit, developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Coming soon…a comprehensive staff education course at My NICU Network called “Caring for Babies and their Families:  Providing Psychosocial Support in the NICU.”  The course, which has been developed by a collaboration between the National Perinatal Association, Patient+Family Care, and the Preemie Parent Alliance, will consist of seven 1-hour online educational modules on topics such as:  communication skills, emotional support of NICU parents, peer support, family-centered developmental care, palliative and bereavement care, discharge planning, and staff support.  For more information, contact

American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement on Culturally Effective Care


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Professional Development, is available from private consultants like Cheryl Milford Consulting. Cheryl is an author of  the Recommendations for Mental Health Professionals in the NICU.

Gunderson Health System’s Resolve Through Sharing is a not-for-profit organization providing thought leadership, and an evidence-based approach to bereavement care.


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Are you interested in having someone speak to your staff, organization, or network about best practices in staff education and/or staff support? Click on the icon to go to our Speaker’s Bureau page to learn more about these speakers.

Rebecca Chuffo-Siewert, DNP, ARNP, NNP-BC, FAANP, neonatal nurse practitioner

Erika Goyer, National Perinatal Association, family advocate

Sue Hall, MD, neonatologist

Lisa Segre, PhD, psychologist

We can also recommend the Preemie Parent Alliance Speakers Bureau for access to a group of former NICU parents who are experienced at sharing their stories with NICU professionals; this should be a vital part of any NICU staff’s education.