The Neonatal Follow-Up Clinic (NFC) located in the James and Connie Maynard Children’s Hospital is a long-standing joint partnership between East Carolina University School of Medicine and Vidant Medical Center. Since the early 1980’s the NFC has focused on improving outcomes and reducing disabilities of Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) graduates. The clinic monitors the health and development of these high-risk infants and is able to provide instruction and education to parents and caregivers. The goal of the clinic is to provide family-centered support and serve as a consultant to primary care providers as they care for these children.
The NFC provides assessments for the first two years of life at crucial developmental intervals. Clinic patients include NICU graduates with prematurity, neurological problems or special medical or developmental needs. The comprehensive neurodevelopmental assessment includes an evaluation of medical, cognitive, behavioral, motor and emotional development. The Clinic team includes a clinic coordinator, social worker, audiologist, psychologist, doctors, and therapists. All of the team members have extensive experience working with medically complex children and their families.
The success of the clinic is directly related to a strong partnership with the Family Support Network of Eastern North Carolina (FSN-ENC). For 30 years, the FSN-ENC has assisted families with high-risk infants to navigate an ever-growing complex system of care and resources. They have recently been recognized as an Exemplar Program by the prestigious Institute of Parent and Family-Centered Care in Bethesda, MD.
When neonatal doctors identify high-risk infants for follow-up in the NFC, parents are often provided support and clinic information from the FSN-ENC staff while their infant is still in the NICU or the Special Care Nursery. They explain the support they will receive through the NFC and how the clinic staff will provide personalized instructions, treatment plans, and education related to their child’s developmental needs.
After discharge, members of the FSN-ENC support network provide mentoring and match the new parents with an experienced and trained parent volunteer of a special needs child. This Parent-to-Parent mentoring has been crucial for clinic families who are sometimes overwhelmed by the special needs and care of their children. Mentored families returning to clinic praise their experience with FSN-ENC and are very grateful for the advice provided by well-trained, diverse volunteers that have had a similar experience. Many of the families seen in the clinic will become new FSN-ENC parent volunteers.
Family Support Network volunteers have a unique ability to connect and assist families navigating the specialized medical care, financial assistance, and adaptive equipment needs of their high-risk infants. They are an integral part of the NFC. Here in eastern North Carolina, we are fortunate to have programs like the Neonatal Follow-Up Clinic and the Family Support Network of Eastern NC working together to identify and assist families of high-risk infants and children. Both programs are exemplary and have contributed to positive and measurable outcomes in the lives of children and their parents.
By: Dr. Stephen Engelke and Donna Wilson Social Work: NICU Follow-up Clinic