4 Ways to Improve Pediatric Patient Satisfaction in the NICU

Patient satisfaction in a hospital setting can be elusive. Hospitals are, inherently, stressful places for patients and their caregivers. These stressors are compounded when the patient is a child in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Even if parents had warning that their newborn might need NICU care, it’s an emotional shock to be separated from a newborn child, and that makes NICU patient care and satisfaction unique.

There are three components to pediatric patient satisfaction in the NICU and PICU: the provider’s interaction with the infant, the parents’ assessment of the interaction between provider and infant, and the parents’ assessment of the parent-provider interaction. Within those three components, there are four ways to develop trust and improve pediatric patient satisfaction:

Develop a rapport with the parents

Parents will only be able to relax when they feel their child is in good hands. “Parents need to trust you,” says Leslie, a pediatric RN. “Developing a rapport with the parents at the first encounter of the day is critical. Showing how confident you are in how to take care of their child allows them to take a deep breath and relax.”

Encourage self-care

New parents, especially of newborns who are in the NICU, need to know that good child care starts with good self-care. If parents are not taking care of themselves, they will have difficulty coping with the demands of a sick or prenatal child. Parents also need to feel comfortable taking breaks—that they won’t be judged by hospital staff if they step away to eat or take a shower.

Improve patient education and communication

Parents are going to have a lot of questions, and it’s hard to remember them all for the brief consultation periods they get with providers making the rounds. Encourage them to write down their questions and observations so that they are prepared when the doctor comes around. They should also take notes when the providers give information on medications, special care instructions, and things to watch for. “Communication is key,” says Stacey, a pediatric nurse. “Especially because most of the time the doctors pop in and out.”

Connect them with resources

Encourage parents to build a strong support network. If the hospital has a special group for parents with babies in the NICU, encourage them to join. Similarly, if there are groups for a particular condition or for their situation, like the March of Dimes, let them know. Take the time to introduce them to any in-hospital resources like the hospital library. The hospital informaticist may be able to help with things like translating patient education and care instructions.  

For more information on what parents expect from providers, tips on communicating with child patients, and improving pediatric patient satisfaction, check out the free white paper The Doctor-Patient Relationship in Pediatrics.

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