TRIPLER ARMY MEDICAL CENTER, Hawaii - The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way many go about their daily lives. The challenge is especially great for parents of the tiny newborns who require special care in Tripler Army Medical Center’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit here.
Generally, visitation is supported in the NICU to include siblings and family support, but with COVID-19, extra precautions have been put in place to help protect and safeguard newborns in the NICU.
At this time, only essential personnel are allowed in the NICU. With these restrictions in place, some siblings and family members have yet to meet the newest addition to their families.
“With the current situation changing rapidly, we quickly realized there was a need for parents and siblings to be able to interact by video chat, so we reached out to the Virtual Health Department for their assistance,” said Trish Wilhelm, the NICU’s head nurse. “It really was a team effort. We were able to work together on a solution and begin offering video chats here in the NICU within a short time frame.”
Providing video chat capabilities to these families with newborns in the NICU is just one of the many ways the virtual health team is enabling telehealth throughout Military Treatment Facilities in Hawaii.
“In the NICU, parents are sent a link to a virtual waiting room, where a nurse or social worker authorize parents to come in, allowing parents and family members to talk to the nurse, talk to and see their baby and let the baby see, hear mom and dad as well,” said Michelle Huml-VanZile, a registered nurse who is Virtual Health’s synchronous program director.
Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Terrance Nobles and Airman 1st Class Sharita Nobles, serving in the Air Force, are parents who have had the opportunity to video chat with their two-and-a-half-week-old daughter, Zya, who is currently in the NICU.
“She smiles whenever she hears me and her dad’s voice,” said Sharita Nobles. “The nurses have been great; they give us updates every day, we video chat when we can, and they also have been able to give us tips on feeding.”
The Nobles family is hopeful that Zya will be able to join them at home soon.