Inside the NICU

Words from a winner (part 2)

Now that we’ve heard from our Level 2 winners at North York, it’s time to find out what wisdom the amazing team at Alberta Children’s Hospital has to share. Ok … we’re listening!


This is the first year that the Alberta Children’s Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) has participated in the Kangaroo Challenge. We are the surgical level 3 NICU located in Calgary, Alberta that operates as a single family room style unit.

A big highlight of the Challenge for us was that one of our premature and surgical patients on the unit was kangarooed for 28 hours straight by both parents as they took shifts.

One of our biggest challenges, as a surgical unit, was being able to accommodate parents holding their babies while doing our routine surgical care. We frequently were changing ostomy bags on babies while parents continued to do skin-to-skin care.

Another challenge we faced was parental presence in the NICU. We are the surgical NICU for all of Southern Alberta which means that a lot of our babies’ families are from surrounding areas and cannot be on the unit all the time. We are very understanding of the struggle parents face to try to be in the NICU with their infants as well as fulfilling their obligations at home. Families who were providing kangaroo care earned a kangaroo to place on their baby’s door for every hour they did skin-to-skin care which was a great morale booster and cultivated some friendly competition between families on the unit.

Unfortunately, we also had some babies on the unit that were accumulating very few kangaroos on their door. It was very important to us, as a unit, to demonstrate that we value the importance of positive touch for all babies, regardless of how often their family could visit. One idea presented by one of our team members was to print off koalas to place on the door of babies that were held by nurses or volunteers. These koalas were not included in the total of kangaroo hours we did as a unit but helped us in our goal to demonstrate to families and staff that we are active in providing meaningful touch to all infants.

The committee that decided to lead the Kangaroo Challenge at the Alberta Children’s Hospital NICU was the Parent Partnership in Care Committee. One of our main goals in the committee is to work in a partnership with our patients’ families as we assist them in becoming the primary caregiver and advocate to their ill infant.

One of the big changes that we noticed during the duration of the challenge was how families began to visibly become more comfortable in providing newborn care to their infants. Parents noted that they were able to more clearly identify their baby’s likes and dislikes, along with their baby’s changes in breathing and stability. It was obvious to us that as the NICU families spent more time proving skin-to-skin care to their infants, they were able to become more active in their baby’s day-to-day NICU care.

Though the Kangaroo Challenge is finished, we hope to keep the momentum going strong on our unit. Our goal this year was to simply open the dialogue between the NICU staff and families about the importance of skin-to-skin care for their infants.

We wanted to see parents asking for skin-to-skin care with their babies as well as NICU staff routinely offering it. Our team was blown away by the amount of participation and enthusiasm by the families in the NICU and it contributed to some excellent energy on the unit. Although we haven’t gotten together as a team yet to discuss our goals for next year, I think we are all believers that with passion and knowledge from the staff, we will be able to engage our NICU families and exceed our 3.5 hour/baby/day total from this year.

Thank you so much for sharing this with us – we LOVE the idea of a baby being kangarooed for 28 hours straight!  We send a hearty congratulations to the amazing team at Alberta Children’s, our 2016 Level 3 Kangaroo Challenge Champion!

About the author

Kate Robson