Leading the Way for Caring for Babies Experiencing Opiate Drug Withdrawal

Gelfand, Steven_MD_LC OK to use after 3 1 2015
Steven Gelfand, MD, FAAP

Mercy Health Saint Mary’s Receives 2016 Center of Excellence Designation in Education and Training for Supporting Better Practices for Infants Experiencing Withdrawal

Mercy Health Saint Mary’s is proud to announce it has earned the 2016 Center of Excellence Designation in Education and Training for infants and families impacted by infant opioid drug withdrawal.

Designated by the Vermont Oxford Network, which is a nonprofit voluntary collaboration focused on neonatal care, Mercy Health Saint Mary’s has created quality improvement programs and staff training to more effectively and compassionately educate the families of and treat the babies who are suffering from opioid use withdrawal.

“Skyrocketing opioid use among the general population is a growing concern all over the country, and we are seeing rising numbers of babies born to mothers with opiate addiction,” said Steven Gelfand, MD, FAAP, neonatologist at Mercy Health. “If untreated, babies born with opioid withdrawal can experience symptoms like shaking, inability to sleep, poor feeding, diarrhea and vomiting, respiratory distress, and in rare cases, seizures.”

 

NICU Nurses
Nurses and other staff from the NICU are proud to have earned the 2016 Center of Excellence Designation in Education and Training for infants and families impacted by infant opioid drug withdrawal.

According to a study published in the Journal of American Medical Association, the number of babies born addicted to opioids increased three-fold in less than a decade to account for 5.63 of every 1,000 births by 2009. As of 2011, 12.9% of pregnant women were prescribed opioids at some point during their pregnancy. Weaning physically addicted mothers off opioids while they are pregnant can increase the risk of stillbirth, according to Gelfand, whose neonatology team at Mercy Health has been developing a plan to help babies who experience drug withdrawal after birth, called Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, (NAS).

Mercy Health formed an interdisciplinary team and, amongst numerous process improvements, kept four main goals in mind:
1) To create a culture of compassion for the families who are experiencing opioid use issues. “Often, there is shame and guilt associated with opioid drug use, and we work with the parents to enhance bonding with their newborn. Whereas these families have historically been treated like criminals, we recognize that substance addiction or abuse is a medical condition deserving of our caring, compassion, and expertise” said Gelfand.
2) To optimize non-pharmaceutical measures where appropriate, including staying ahead of the baby’s symptoms by cautious swaddling, shushing and swaying, and maintaining a low-stimulus environment for the babies. The intimate setting at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s NICU allows the staff to learn what works for each individual baby.
3) To actively promote breastfeeding when appropriate, as the benefits outweigh the risks in many circumstances.
4) To standardize a protocol for the identification, evaluation, treatment, and discharge management of babies with NAS.

In 2015, Mercy Health Saint Mary’s was one of the 110 centers that enrolled in a national multi-center quality improvement collaborative sponsored by Vermont Oxford Network. Only centers that successfully trained at least 85% of their staff were eligible for the Center of Excellence designation.

 

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