Hospitals around the country have been upgrading their neonatal intensive care units to include personal webcams for each tiny patient. It’s a convenience for parents — and reduces worries about visitors bringing in germs.
The neonatal intensive care unit at St. Thomas Midtown in Nashville is the latest hospital to join the webcam wave, among facilities around the country from big cities to towns that are installing cameras over each infant.
At St. Thomas, Sherri Anderson has 20 years of experience as a neonatal nurse, watching parents run themselves ragged trying to be at the hospital every waking hour, sometimes commuting long distances.
“The parents go through a lot — emotionally, spiritually, physically,” Anderson said. “It’s very taxing, and sometimes they just need to go home and just recover.”
The $1,200 cameras — which St. Thomas paid for through a special fundraiser — come from a company called Natus Medical. They provide a close-up shot that anyone in the world can log on to see — using a password.
Jill Brothers had twin boys born at 27 weeks, requiring a two-month stay in the NICU. Her husband, who plays professional baseball, was away for spring training most of that time, but he could get on the computer and watch the boys’ progress.
“This has been a crucial element to just being a part and feeling like you’re involved with their growth,” she said. “There’s lots of other people in the family that have been able to log on and see the boys and see them [in] real time, which is great.”
Brothers still came to the hospital every day, but she found herself checking the web stream when she was up in the middle of the night — to watch the boys breathing.
“I really just felt like it was safe and comfortable,” she said.
Parents’ peace of mind is only one aim, though. St. Thomas NICU nursing director Donna Darnell said the new cameras could cut down on germs sneaking into the unit from other relatives stopping by.
“There are times throughout the year that we worry about a lot of visitors. Flu season is the best example,” Darnell said.
Even during normal times, access for family and friends is highly restricted because of germs — and the cameras give many more people the opportunity to see the tiny patients.