I am grateful for the opportunity I have been given to be able to provide support to expecting families on the journey to parenthood. Although pregnancy is a time of great joy and excitement, for some parents it can be filled with uncertainty and anxiety, especially when the baby’s health is of concern.
As a mother myself, I empathize with the families and can only imagine what a parent feels the moment he/she finds out their unborn child has a medical condition. Expectant parents display a sense of helplessness and often wonder what to do or where to turn when first learning about the unborn baby’s diagnosis.
The Fetal Care Center
at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital is here to provide support to these families, by offering prenatal consultations and diagnostic testing, as well as develop a plan of care for management of a condition.
As one of the nurse navigators for the program, I serve as a key point of contact for the parents, coordinating all necessary appointments; ensuring parents understand the diagnosis and treatment options, providing guidance on next steps, arranging follow up consultations. We are also a shoulder to cry on and hand to hold during those difficult moments. We provide the families with a clearer path to the journey they are about to embark on.
Our team at the Fetal Care Center communicates with community obstetricians and maternal fetal medicine specialists who often refer families to our program shortly after the anatomy scan, a milestone in pregnancy to check the measurement and growth of the baby. This is supposed to be an exciting time as many parents anticipate learning the sex of the baby; the thought that something could be wrong is not top of mind.
Regardless of the complexity of the diagnosis, from minor to life threatening, it is a lot to take in and can be overwhelming. When the families are referred to our program, they arrive heartbroken, scared, and unsure of what the future will hold. I provide anticipatory guidance, I try to offer reassurance by explaining what the first appointment at the hospital will be like, who they will be meeting with and, what types of tests will be conducted in order to reduce their anxiety and stress levels.
We try to schedule the initial appointment as quickly as possible because I know waiting can feel like an eternity. We create a plan for the day and try to schedule as many of the necessary appointments on one day, to make it easier and convenient for the family. A key part of the program that resonates with parents is knowing they will have a nurse they can reach out to at any time. We are only one phone call away and one of us will always answer.
On the day of the appointment, I meet the family at a pre-arranged greeting point and stay with them to provide support throughout the entire day. The parents (or parent) is introduced to specialists and undergoes diagnostic tests, such as a fetal MRI or fetal echo, when necessary. We also stay in constant contact with the mother’s referring physician, oftentimes the Obstetrician/Gynecologist or a Maternal Fetal Medicine specialist, to collaborate and keep the physician informed during all stages of the planning.
Once the family has met with the team of specialists, a plan is created to outline what medical services the baby will need. When necessary, our team establishes a plan for how the infant will be transferred to the hospital for intensive care. I provide the family a tour of the neonatal intensive care unit, showing the care space they would stay in with the baby. I also introduce the family to the team that would be caring for the baby. Parents are included and participate in this plan, their voice is heard and we make sure they feel comfortable.
This is usually the point where I see families become less anxious. They find comfort in knowing there is a plan for their baby’s journey after birth. At this point, they have also met with the medical team that will care for him or her. I personally feel the program inspires much needed hope to the families we serve. It is equally rewarding, as a medical professional and a mother, to see the families with the baby after birth and throughout every step of the journey.
About the blogger:
Eileen Garcell-Garcia is a Nurse Navigator with the Fetal Care Center at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital.
To learn more about the Fetal Care Center visit nicklauschildrens.org/fetalcare
Connect to a Nurse Navigator 1-844-55FETAL