The members of nursing staff on the OB/Nursery floor at Daviess Community Hospital have big hearts and care deeply for the families that come into their lives. Over the past 10 to 15 years, the staff noticed an increasing number of babies born at the hospital who have incurable illness. To help meet the needs of the families, Shawna O’Kelley Brinson, RN and director for OB/Nursing, and other staff members at DCH have established a Newborn Palliative Care Team.
Launched in late September, Brinson said that the DCH program has been modeled off a similar program at Deaconess in Evansville.
“At Deaconess, we discovered that the families stayed at the hospital the entire time. We wanted our families to be able to spend time with their babies in their own homes and this program allows that,” said Brinson.
Palliative care for newborns can include everything from helping with oxygen at home to changing feeding tubes and managing quality of life. Brinson said often the goal of palliative care is just to be there for the families when needed.
Prior to the launch of the new program, Brinson said that many of the staff members volunteered their time to visit families of the infants after they were discharged. “We didn’t want them to hesitate to call when they needed someone,” said Brinson. “We felt that by offering this as a service and having adequate staff available, families would know that not only was it alright to call, but they were encouraged to call.”
While the new program is free to families in need of the service, the nurses do receive on call pay for services through the hospital.
For families, having a newborn with a terminal illness is always a challenge but Brinson and the rest of the Palliative Care Team are there for the long haul.
“Our team works 12-hour, on-call shifts so someone is always available for the family. We want to be there when the families need us whether it’s to help with feeding or bathing or something else,” said Brinson. “We are in this until the end and are committed to do whatever it takes for our families.”
Brinson said that often times the OB nurses form a special relationship with the families before the babies leave the hospital and that bond helps the nurses to better serve families once they go home. Angie Steiner, director of physician recruitment and business development, said she agreed that the relationship formed during labor and delivery is a big plus for families facing difficult days ahead.
“Our nurses have that relationship with the families already so they feel comfortable having our staff come to their home to help with their child’s needs,” said Steiner.
Brinson and the other members of the team including Heather Wagler, Desiree Knepp, Venita Wagler, Teresa Graber, Chelsea Stoll, Judy Wagler, Beverly Graber, and Sarah Morrison are each ready to help families care for their babies according to the wishes of the parents.
“We have strong support from the DCH Administrative team, the OB/GYNs and the pediatricians,” said Brinson. “There was a definite need for this team. No one should go through losing a baby alone.”