When Keriton Kare first came to my unit, the photo-sharing function was a new workflow for staff.
We were a bit skeptical about sending pictures to families. Did parents want photos of their babies with all the wires & equipment? Would it be disruptive at night for mothers already coping with sleep loss and stress?
The first night I used the app, one of my patients was very premature and sick. He had a breathing tube and multiple IVs. I was a bit nervous about sending photos to his parents because it was hard to hide all the equipment. Still, with some hesitation, I decided to try my best.
With my first hands-on care of the night, I caught a picture of him holding his breathing tube while looking at me with an adorable glare. Next time I got one of him with his hand covering his eyes with an expression that clearly said, “Not you again!” My final picture of the night was after I positioned him on his stomach and he naturally tucked his hands sweetly beneath his chin.
I was used to seeing infants at his stage of prematurity, so the little faces and positions I captured didn’t strike me as unique. I sent the pictures off and went about my night.
The next morning around change-of-shift, his mother arrived on the unit with a big smile on her face. I was actually taken back by her mood. Since his birth, she always seemed downcast and somber.
“Did you send the pictures last night?” she asked. I nodded.
Her eyes suddenly filled with tears. “Thank you,” she said. “You finally let me see my son as a baby. For the first time, I feel like a mother.”
Her words hit me hard. All night, I spent so much time worrying the pictures would be upsetting for her! I completely missed the unique perspective they let me provide as a nurse. It was easy for me to focus on his little face and hands and ignore the rest of the distressing medical equipment – touching him was not terrifying – posing his little limbs was part of my routine nursing care. Those pictures I took? I suddenly realized how precious that must seem. The Kare Nurse app allowed me to share a vision of her child through my nursing eyes.
Over the next few weeks, as more and more parents shared similar experiences with receiving photos, the NICU staff and I leaned into photo-sharing as a new way to engage and comfort families.
Pumping parents reported that receiving photos overnight helped motivate them to stay on schedule. We started using the photos to capture other special moments like baths and feedings.
Those photos became a tool for us to build a connection between families and the hospital; they allowed us to keep them closer to their baby’s journey in the NICU.
This April 25-29, hospitals throughout the US will observe Patient Experience Week – a time to celebrate how healthcare workers affect the healing experience of patients and their families. As nurses, we know that building therapeutic relationships start with kindness and empathy – but my experience with photo-sharing in the NICU served as a true lesson in expanding my perspective to improve the patient experience.
May we always strive to seek new ways to offer support and comfort to the families in our care. And may we never take for granted how simple gestures can have a profound influence on a patient’s journey.
Kelly Convery is the Clinical Quality Manager for Keriton. She’s a registered nurse and has worked in health care for over 15 years. She’s spent the majority of her nursing career in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and has been active in quality improvement projects and implementing best practice initiatives throughout her tenure.