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G15 Neomates – a parents’ peer support group with a difference
  1. OJ Rackham,
  2. J Morgan
  1. Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Wirral, UK

Abstract

Imagine the excitement of having a newborn baby……Now imagine the fear and anxiety of having that baby taken away because it needs intensive care.

Everyone knows that parents of these babies need to be physically and mentally strong to share in providing that care.

So we took that parental need and with drive from the staff set up a peer support group with a difference NeoMates.

Aims

  • Provide early peer support for parents when they are at their most vulnerable.

  • Bring parents together when they feel most isolated.

  • Allow them to share their experiences in a large range of settings.

  • Modify and adapt the support as needs evolve.

  • Obtain feedback to improve care.

  • Moderate conversations and protect the NeoMates so they feel safe to comment both face-to-face and online.

Methods

  • Setting up a weekly face-to-face ‘coffee morning’ for current ‘inmates’ as well as ‘graduates’.

  • Creating/moderating a closed Facebook group.

  • Inviting our NeoMates to contribute to improving care.

Once NeoMates was up and running, we made further changes/ adaptations.

  • Creating NeoMatesUK

  • Creating an open Facebook page and Twitter feed.

Results

  • Immediate peer support for over 500 NeoMates parents with shared experiences

  • Parents are less isolated and more supported when at their most vulnerable

  • Rapid access to feedback from a large group of experts; ‘reading group’, surveys, neonatal network steering group engagement.

  • Parental involvement in service improvement; eg birth registration, nurse-parent communication, discharge planning.

  • Innovative participation in the regional medical and nursing teaching programmes.

  • National support network; NeoMatesUK now has over 440 members

  • Engagement with other agencies to promote physical and mental wellbeing for dads.

Conclusion

  • The benefits of this free, easily reproducible project are best summarised with quotes from the NeoMates parents.

  • ‘We are family. I’ve got NICU Ninjas with me.’

  • ‘...I depend on this website and group for support when I am out of my depth…I sometimes need to be able to read others success stories to reassure me….’

  • ‘NeoMates is a 24/7 family of inmates united by an experience which none of us chose but which brought us all together.’

  • ‘There are no words good enough to describe this group! It’s the only group where I feel comfortable not one person looks down on you or judges you….It’s the best thing about any Wednesday just wish I could come every week…’

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