June 25, 2013
By Sue Ludwig

Are Your NICU Parent Education Handouts Circa 1988?

Racoon Do your parent education handouts look like they were created 20-30 years ago?

You know what I'm talking about. The grainy black and white handouts where all the therapists and nurses have perms?

Or maybe you make copies of pediatric therapy illustrations then find yourself adapting them (i.e. writing all over them) for NICU patients and parents.

These materials can summed up as, "Not ideal or current, but better than nothing." Am I close?

Updating educational handouts seems like an easy enough task. But that assumes 2 things: 1) that you even HAVE handouts to update and 2) that creating a professional, hospital-approved handout is a piece of cake. I mean why don't you just whip that up during your 14 minute lunch one day?

The TRUTH
The reason so many of these materials are out of date is because it takes time, collaboration and dog-with-a-bone persistence to create anything new. And finding NICU appropriate examples to draw from is sometimes (read: usually) a lonely, frustrating adventure.

A Light!
One of your fellow NANT members, Sue McMahon PT, DPT, PCS wrote and recently published an article that's sure to save you from reinventing the process. In her article, Enhancing Motor Development in Infants and Toddlers: A Multidisciplinary Process for Creating Parent Education Materials, Dr. McMahon outlines a process that works.

From the literature review, to the collaborative team process, to discussing hospital standards you may not know about (which will slow your progress if not included), this article lays it all out for you. Bring it to your next developmental or unit meeting if handouts are on the radar. A great start while averting the pitfalls she's highlighted.

Remember, learning can't happen if education is unleashed like a fire hose. The sample handout featured in the article brings the required simplicity into focus.

Caution: When reading articles like this, you tend to finish them with a new pit in your stomach. The one that says, "Handouts? I wasn't even thinking about handouts! That's something else we need to improve. When will I have time for that?"

And your brain lurches immediately into overdrive. Your amygdala is fired up.

Remember: Start small.

  1. Read the article. (Click here for the abstract.)
  2. If you could pick 1 handout to provide or update what would that be? (I know how your brain works - don't let it escalate to a whole binder of handouts!)
  3. Write down your #1 favorite choice.
  4. Write down a start date whether it's January 10, 2014 or June of 2015. Plan it then let it go. Complete your current goals so you feel the joy of getting things done. It will wait for you.

And let's make sure perms are missing from the photos this time around. (A great addition to hospital marketing guidelines?)

About Sue Ludwig

President and Founder, Sue Ludwig is a practicing neonatal occupational therapist at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center. She is a sought after international speaker, consultant, writer and educator. Sue has published articles related to infant-driven feeding, oral feeding and the late preterm infant and quality analysis of developmental care, and served as guest editor for Newborn & Infant Nursing Reviews. She is also a published author and poet.

Sue is a member of the American Occupational Therapy Association and serves as their media expert in neonatal therapy. She is an ex-officio member of the Education Provider Committee for the National Association of Neonatal Nurses.

Sue lives in Ohio with her husband and two children.

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