a day in the life of…..A Family Centred Care Coordinator
A day in the life of a Family Centred Care Coordinator at St George’s Hospital Neo Natal Unit.
How do we describe ourselves to families? ‘Family centred care coordinator’ tends to get stuck round the teeth like the verbal equivalent of a chewy toffee. ‘Don’t worry about the job title’ we say, ‘…basically we are here to help you to be as involved with your baby as you want to be…’ We are a ‘friend’, little pixies running around gladly doing seemingly ridiculous jobs for these wonderful families so they don’t have to. Anything that makes their life easier or more bearable….
So what do we spend all our time doing? No day is ever the same on the neonatal unit! As every parent knows, the journey most of these babies take is long, bizarre, difficult, and requires the patience of a saint and the commitment of…..well, a parent!
I walk down the corridor at the beginning of the day. I can’t help but look into the nurseries to see if there are any new babies, new families I don’t recognise, or if that baby I was worried about during my day off has made it through the night.
I start off in high dependency, passing some time with some long term parents whom I know well. The professional boundaries are clear. There is no complication here. We have a mutual understanding that in this time and in this place I am their friend, someone who has walked beside them from the first day their baby was born. They can tell me anything, and I will listen. Advice is usually not required or asked for, but they know if they need anything I will do my best to sort it out, even if it takes me all day.
I find out about a new couple about to have a caesarean section for their premature twins, so pop round to the delivery suite. I meet a wide-eyed mum and dad-to be. Their eyes are hopeful, anxious, scared and excited. My job is not to tell them everything will be ok, but to reassure them that the unit they are about to entrust their precious babies to is a wonderful one, a unit where they will be encouraged to be a mummy and daddy. Somewhere their parenting role can begin, not go on hold until discharge day. I leave them, promising to meet them after they have had their babies.
On my way back I bump into a mum who looks fed up. It transpires she is finding expressing her milk a nightmare and is worried about her production. We find somewhere quiet to sit and have a chat. It is never just about milk! There are tears, tissues, and often laughter as well. I show her some practical tips and tricks, and congratulate her on her efforts thus far. Producing milk is about so much more than the sum total of that precious liquid – it is motherly devotion, encapsulating something unique and precious for one mother and her baby, perhaps the only ‘normal’ thing she can do.
On my way back to attempt a lunch break, I meet the new father of twins looking lost, and show him where his babies are being looked after. He can’t visit them yet – the team are stabilising the babies and getting them settled and comfortable. Instead, I show him around, tell him about some of the babies on our story board, and answer a few quick questions. He tells me that they live 30 miles away, and I promise to refer them to our Ronald McDonald House facility on site. I then walk with him back up to the post-natal ward and congratulate the new Mummy. After helping her to express for the first time, I head back down to the unit, buoyed by the proud beam she gave me as she handed over her liquid gold. I strikes me as showing incredible trust that I am given this wonderful substance to take down to the nursery, and I deliver it straight away, labelling it carefully for these two new arrivals.
Having done a few other jobs for a couple of families, I am amazed to see that yet another day has gone. It will have been a day of great joy, and bittersweet memories for some of the families. It is just another day of so many in a long journey for others. But as I walk out of the hospital to go home to my own family, tired, probably starving hungry, I know for certain that I have made one of those endless days just a tiny bit better for the families I spoke to. And, I have to say, that puts a big, proud beam on my face too.
This is a role that is funded by the charity First Touch (www.first-touch.org.uk/)
First Touch was set up in 1998 to support the babies, families and staff on the Neonatal Unit at St George’s Hospital. We are the only charity dedicated to the nnu at St George’s and the money raised by our supporters goes directly to fund equipment and projects to improve outcomes for the babies and their families.
The Hersham Hub support First Touch as its featured charity – you can read more about that here