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Local Hospitals Improving Care for Premature Babies

(Springfield, MO) -- Wee Care is a program that's changing the way staff members care for their preemies.
(Springfield, MO) - A premature baby is born before the 37th week of pregnancy. It happens in eight to ten percent of all pregnancies in the United States.
 
Wee Care is a program that's changing the way staff members care for their preemies.
 
A lot of premature babies may have health problems because their organs don't have enough time to develop.
 
They need special medical care in a neonatal intensive care unit -- or NICU -- and they stay there until their organ systems can work on their own.
 
The Wee Care program offers the hospital staff the education they need to ensure they are taking the best possible care of their most fragile patients...the preemies.
 
When talking about the appropriate developmental care for premature babies, doctors say there's one main concern.
 
Dr. Melinda Slack, the Medical Director of the NICU, says, "Their developmental needs and their environmental needs are very different than those of a term baby."
 
She says the bun should still be in the oven, so to speak.
 
"They have very immature neurological functions and in fact their brain is still in the process of development," she says.
 
Slack says the wee care program educates the hospital staff to know everything they can to comfort the families,
 
"This is a very stressful and vulnerable time for them." she adds.
 
As well as give better care and therefore lead to better outcomes for their babies.
 
"We look to what's going on in the nation, and we will be one of about  70 hospitals who will have gone through this program," Slack says.
 
Sandi Stewart, one of the NICU nurses who has worked here for 14 years, says this program has taught her many new things.
 
"Positioning protocols that we can follow to have our babies have a more contained and restful environment, a lot of science behind what we do that affects the brain development of the baby," Stewart says.
 
And she says the wee care program gives updated information on what preemies need.

"We keep the environment for the infants as much like the uterus of the mom as possible by keeping our sound and lighting to a minimum and creating an environment for the babies to grow and develop with the least trauma possible."
 
There are some common issues with many preterm babies.
 
"The occurrence of chronic lung disease, the occurrence of brain bleeds, and the occurrence of retinopathy prematurity," Slack says.
 
It's not just doctors and nurses who receive the training. Each staff member is educated so babies get what they need.
 
"This includes also the education of respiratory therapists, our nutritionists, pastoral care, respiratory therapy, and even our social worker," Slack says.
 
A program that's making a big impact in the lives of some very small people.
 
Mercy is in the process of building 53 new rooms for its patients and their families.
 
It will give families more privacy and give them the opportunity to spend more time with their newborns.
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