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Partnership provides NICU babies support at home

Published on Friday, March 31, 2017

Published on March 31, 2017

A healthy baby home sooner.

That's the goal of a new partnership between Children's of Mississippi and Sta-Home, a home health agency based in Jackson.

The dilemma, said Fran Malenzi, director of newborn services at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, is that babies whose health and strength are growing could go home from the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) if a home health nurse could stop in to check on their progress.

Without that transitional support, those babies would stay in the NICU, Malenzi said.

Children's of Mississippi “built a program with Sta-Home from the ground up,” she said, “so we can care for these babies.”

Available in Hinds, Rankin, Madison, Simpson and Holmes Counties, the program began last December. Carleigh Jae Course was among the first babies in the program.

Carleigh Jae and her twin brother, Carter, now 6 months old, were born at about 24 weeks: Carleigh Jae at 1 pound, 10 ounces, and Carter just one ounce heavier than his sister. Carter came home after a three-month stay in the NICU, but Carleigh Jae, still on oxygen, stayed four months longer.

Sta-Home's Shelley Fowler, a registered nurse, began visiting Carleigh Jae every few days, checking her length, weight, head circumference, feeding ability and oxygen saturation. The bright-eyed little girl is now weaned off oxygen and weighs 11 pounds, 13.5 ounces.

The twins' mother, Brittney Course of Pearl, said having a home health nurse check in as part of the new program helps transition Carleigh Jae to her home.

“As a mother, it puts my mind at ease knowing Shelley is stopping in,” Course said. 

Fowler, who previously worked in UMMC's NICU, said working with the Course family has been a joy.

“Brittney and I have become friends,” Fowler said, “and Carleigh is so sweet.”

The Course family's experience is one UMMC and Sta-Home would like to replicate.

As the program was being created, everyone involved worked to define the methods to identify the babies who would qualify, the process for discharging those babies to their homes, the criteria for home health visits, and the communication procedures to allow Sta-Home nurses to quickly reach Children's of Mississippi staff when needed.

“We've built a collaboration with Sta-Home so we can care for babies in our NICU and subsequently transition them into the community in a safe and time-sensitive manner when they are medically ready,” said Dr. Mobolaji Famuyide, associate professor of neonatology at UMMC and NICU medical director. “We want this program to offer the best outcomes for families.

“We're seeking a good handoff between our team and the Sta-Home team and we want to involve the pediatrician in the community who is taking care of the baby back home.”

Peggy Stewart, Sta-Home's Jackson provider administrator, and Brittany Edwards, director of the project for Sta-Home, both said the partnership is running smoothly.

“We're happy to be a partner with UMMC in helping babies have the healthiest transition from hospital to home,” Stewart said.