Facing doctors in the NICU can often be overwhelming and intimidating for parents. In the early days of a NICU journey, asking a question can be scary. We don’t want the NICU staff to think we are questioning their skills and knowledge but as parents, this is a brand new experience for us and one that we never expected to be in. Each day, we hear countless new terms. Often times, these terms are used without much, if any, of an explanation. We don’t want to stop and ask what the term means. Will the doctor think I’m a bad parent if I don’t know what they are talking about?
Being in the NICU goes against human nature. We are the parents but we feel that we aren’t able to parent our child. Other people are caring for our child. We often feel powerless when we have to ask questions about our child. As the parent, we shouldn’t have to ask questions – we should be the ones caring for our child! Many times, the doctors and nurses hold our child’s fragile life in their hands. Learning to stand up to a doctor and ask questions is hard to learn in the NICU.
The Graham’s Foundation Parent Mentor Program is a wonderful resource for the preemie community. They have some advice to share when standing up to a doctor in the NICU.
“Keep a journal with a list of questions and concerns that you can bring to meetings with the doctor. It will help you stay focused and serve as a reminder to you to cover all of your questions. If possible bring someone with you to the meetings to make some notes of things you may want to follow up on. Doctors appreciate a concerned parent more than an angry parent.” – Anne R.
“Don’t start with “I’m sorry, but”. You are the parent, you have every right and obligation to be informed and involved. State your questions clearly and without apology for “bothering” anyone, and don’t hold back.” – Gay M.
“Please feel empowered to communicate your questions and wishes to NICU doctors. It can feel like the doctors/nurses know your child best because they spend so much time with your child. But you are still the parent and deserve to have all your questions answered and be comfortable with a test or treatment before it progresses. I found it helpful to write my questions and concerns down before having an important conversation. That way I didn’t get overwhelmed and forget them in the moment.” – Leah R.
“Ask them lots of questions and if you feel uncomfortable be confident asking a second opinion or asking the nurse.” – Kimberly S.
“Be sure to always make a written list of all your questions ahead of time. Don’t be afraid to ask the nurse to call your doctor if you have any questions at any time. Lastly, if you have a feeling about something, comment or question don’t hold back. We know our babies best.” – Amy A.
“Ask questions when you don’t understand. Always trust and express your mommy or daddy instinct, even if it is counter to the doctor’s plan.” – Selena R.
“It’s your child and sometimes you just need to use your gut feeling on things if you disagree with a treatment, routine, procedure, etc.” – Andrea S.
“Keep detailed notes in a bound notebook. If you have questions, write them down when you think of them so you don’t forget when you meet with your child’s doctors. Take notes when you talk to your doctor and don’t be afraid to ask them what terms mean, possible side effects, etc.” – Ashley O.
“Respect the doctor but also respect your instincts. You are a mother. You know that child better than anyone else. But that also means you have to be there. All of the time. Stay informed. Doctors listen to parents who are present more than they are” – Kaleena B.
What other suggestions do you have for parents in the NICU?