Nurses create safe place for newborns with neonatal abstinence syndrome

Besides specialized care, babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome need to connect with their parents.

Tara Sundem, RN, NNP-BC, MS, admits she used to judge parents when newborns in her neonatal ICU were going through withdrawal. She, like many of her nurse colleagues, thought the best place for these babies after discharge was not with the parents.

Sundem now says she was wrong after studying opiate use disorder and says the best place for these newborns almost always is with the parents, even if those parents are not yet drug free. But these families need help.

Tara Sundem, RN

“Studies are showing the importance of the biological mom’s and dad’s presence to help with baby’s brain development,” she said.

So Sundem and Kelly Woody, RN, NNP-BC, also a neonatal nurse practitioner, started the nonprofit Hushabye Nursery in Gilbert, Ariz. The nursery is a recovery center for infants with neonatal abstinence syndrome. The infants’ stay lasts until they no longer need NICU care. Parents can stay in rooms with their babies — each room has a bed, crib and rocking chair.

The approach is that staff embrace substance-exposed babies and their caregivers with compassionate, evidence-based care. According to Hushabye’s website, this type of care can change the course of families’ lives, sparing newborns from following similarly troubled paths.

Through hard work and securing donations, the NP duo plans to open a new building dedicated to their mission Sept. 30, 2020. The new facility will have 12 inpatient private rooms. On the outpatient side, the facility will have a counseling area and outpatient programming such as prenatal and parenting classes. The new clinic will require a staff of 25 to 30, including up to 10 nurses.

Neonatal abstinence syndrome cases climb

The journey started when Sundem was working in a hospital NICU and noticed growing numbers of babies in withdrawal. The opioid epidemic was affecting the most vulnerable at an alarming rate.

“We shouldn’t have been surprised, but we were,” she said.

Nationwide, neonatal abstinence syndrome diagnoses have increased 235% since 2008, and these newborns spend an average of 19 days in the NICU.

Sundem and her NICU colleagues tried to help the babies, but the traditional NICU environment — with bright lights and noise — isn’t conducive to soothing a baby in withdrawal.

Out of frustration, Sundem educated herself about neonatal abstinence syndrome and learned about adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs. She hadn’t learned about ACEs in nursing school and said it still isn’t taught in most programs today, but it should be.

ACEs’ impact on children’s lives are widely researched. In a study of more than 17,000 people who received physical exams and completed confidential surveys about their childhood experiences and current health status and behaviors, researchers found a dose-response relationship between the number of ACEs in a person’s life and negative health and well-being outcomes such as mental health issues and chronic diseases.

Babies in withdrawal often are born with two or three ACEs, such as a …read more

Read full article here: