Family physicians leading the way in Family Newborn Care

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Exceptional care includes passionate doctors – and they’re not hard to find on the Family and Newborn Care Unit of the IWK Health Centre. These physicians are going above and beyond to make sure that both baby and parent are adjusting well to their new lives.

“Typically, the newborn ward is run by pediatricians. We’re unique in that we’re run by family physicians,” says Dr. Anna Neumann, family physician working in primary care obstetrics at the IWK. “Over the last five years, we’ve taken on preterm babies, babies who are jaundice, neonatal abstinence syndrome cases and more, while being a leader of that in Atlantic Canada. We’re quite proud of the program that we’ve developed.”

With recent changes to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), the newborn service team took the opportunity to expand their services. The team is now able to provide care for diverse newborn cases directly on the Family and Newborn Care unit.

“We’ve evolved from normal newborn service to the Family and Newborn Care Unit where we’re taking care of babies with more complex issues,” says Neumann. “The team underwent training to take care of these types of patients, for example our neonatal abstinence syndrome population. With the extra training we’re now able to take care of these babies as a special population. Whether it’s a completely healthy baby or a baby that we may be worried about sepsis that requires antibiotics, we’re now managing all of those issues.”

Neumann notes that a major benefit of this expanded service is being able to keep the baby and parent together during the treatment time. The team in the Family and Newborn Care Unit work collaboratively to keep services all in one place to maximize bonding time for parent and baby.

And the physician’s job doesn’t end when treatment is over. Patients of the Family and Newborn Care Unit receive a full exit plan that helps to transition them into their community. If a family doctor isn’t found for them, they’re able to continue treatment at the hospital as an outpatient until they have a family doctor. By collaborating with nurses and the lactation consultants, the family physicians stay in the loop each step of the way so that no patient is left without a family doctor.

“I think we do a really good job working with the team members, working with public health and communicating to the family physician,” says Neumann. “Whether through paperwork or more complex discharges, our team does an amazing job taking care of these babies and their parents. We move them into their community and get them through that transition.”

Neumann notes that the team focuses on fostering an environment of mentorship and relying on each other to help the service grow. The expansion of newborn service provides a unique learning opportunity for more than 20 residents each year who get to see how more extensive cases are handled.

This environment of learning and collaboration is the driving force behind the service’s success throughout the years. The team prides itself on being able to welcome new members, mentor them and help develop skills thought teaching.

“Babies are always going to be born, and they’re always going to need people taking care of them, and family medicine is the perfect home for them,” says Neumann. “We take care of not only the baby, but we look at the family dynamic and the exit plan as well.”

“It’s a lot of work, but it works really nicely.”

On May 1st, National Doctors Day celebrates the hard work and contributions that physicians make to individuals and communities. Thank you to for all that you do.