Clinicians in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) are charged with supporting the smallest of patients in their first days of life. One US study over an eight-year timeframe found over 12% of births will result in NICU admissions.
Supporting NICU clinicians with the right resources is key to alleviating some of their daily challenges, ultimately improving outcomes for their patients.
Key challenges for NICU clinicians
Nurses and clinicians in NICU units face a number of challenges on top of tending to their patients and their families.
Nurse staffing shortages
Like many areas of the healthcare ecosystem, NICU units are understaffed. Since infants are unable to care for themselves, they are highly dependent on the consistent care of nurse and clinical teams, leading to additional strain on already understaffed teams. As nurse turnover and burnout continues to rise, studies show lower staffing rates lower staffing ratios increase infections while higher staffing ratios improve outcomes. Clinical leaders need to meet these challenges by equipping current staff with tools to help alleviate workload, improve access to information, and streamline workflows.
Care consistency for all patients
Another challenge is the need to provide consistent care across NICU teams and clinical staff. One study identified the need for evidence-based, standardized processes to ensure consistent NICU care when working with families and during shift changes. Additionally, in the United States, the preterm birthrate is 49% higher for Black or African American populations, and Black newborns die at more than twice the rate of non-Hispanic white newborns. These statistics emphasize the need to ensure bias-free, equitable care for all NICU patients and their families.
Low resourcing for clinical technology and information
Having access to modern technology and tools is key for clinicians to perform their job. A 2022 McKinsey survey of registered nurses (RNs) identified “access to technology” as a reason they would likely stay in their current position. Not having standardized information and technology across teams can create inconsistencies in care and make decision-making more challenging.
Many clinical teams around the world have limited access to information and technology integrations, especially in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC). While births in LMICs have increased in recent years, health outcomes in these countries haven’t necessarily followed suit. Having easy access to clinical content with the latest evidence-based recommendations at the point-of-care can support better health outcomes.
How evidence-based clinical decision support can aid NICU clinicians
While these challenges can’t be solved holistically with one or two solutions, equipping NICU nurses and clinicians with the right evidence-based content to support decision-making can help standardize care across teams and improve outcomes for infants and their families.
Access to the latest clinical and drug information
With clinical evidence constantly updating and new drugs coming out on the market, NICU clinicians need access to the latest recommendations for their smallest patients. Having quick access to information about neonatal disorders and appropriate drug dosing can help improve outcomes and support nurses at the point-of-care. They can also provide patient information to families as they move on from the NICU to support care at home. Additionally, nurses need to understand not only when the clinical information was last updated, but also the original sources and studies that led to recommended procedures and dosing to feel confident in their decisions.
Accessible information across NICU teams
When this clinical decision support content is available at the point-of-care, NICU nurses can easily access recommendations in the midst of a busy, potentially understaffed shift. Having decision support easily accessible on mobile devices, in the EHR, and in rural locations can be key to providing neonatal information to clinicians and improving equitable care for infants.
Opportunities to standardize processes
Having clinical decision support across teams can support standardizing processes and care. By working with consistent sources of information, NICU teams can provide standardized levels of care staffing transitions, across diverse populations, and when the need for quick answers arises.
As leaders look to support their NICU units and staff, providing access to the latest evidence-based clinical information from decision support tools like UpToDate and Lexicomp can alleviate challenges and help improve outcomes for the smallest patients.
Lexicomp is a trusted provider of drug information to 96% of the 2022-2023 Top 25 Best Children Neonatology Hospitals. Learn how UpToDate and Lexicomp can support neonatal nurses and their patients by contacting our team.