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Families facing a prenatal diagnosis of a life-limiting condition are often overwhelmed — they need all of their care providers to be on the same page.
More than any other of your patients, families facing a prenatal diagnosis of a life-limiting condition need consistency during their prenatal care. Families in this situation are often under extreme stress. Struggling to gain a clear understanding of what is happening, they are also coping with emotions as they try to make informed decisions. Here are 3 key ways your practice can support carrying to term families with the consistent care they need.
Inform: Brief Your Entire Staff
First, it is important to ensure that everyone in your office involved in the care is informed. From front desk staff to nurses to doctors, everyone should be up to date and aware of the status of care as relevant to their role.
For a bereaved parent, it can be incredibly overwhelming and painful to have to retell the diagnosis, the most recent care received, and any other information that can be found in their chart to new front desk staff, nurses, or doctors.
We understand and acknowledge how busy doctors and nurses can be. We know it can be difficult to remember or be on top of every detail for every patient, but taking a moment to review the chart or check in with other members of the care team before entering a consultation or appointment with these families is critical.
Do not underestimate the impact this can have. This act of mindfulness and support has a major effect on the parents’ emotional well-being. Parents want to feel supported and as though their baby matters to you, personally. You can provide that feeling by being well versed on the details of their case.
Continuity: Consider Your Care Provider Policies
One concrete way to ensure consistency and familiarity with the details of a given case is to consider continuity of care. If your practice has patients see multiple doctors, nurses, or midwives throughout their prenatal care, strongly consider having the same one or two professionals provide care to a patient facing a prenatal diagnosis of a life-limiting condition.
Doing so can go a long way to fostering a sense of security and support. For example, if your practice has several ultrasound technicians, create continuity of care by having this family see the same provider each time.
This is not to suggest that the same few professionals should care for all of these cases. Every doctor, nurse, midwife, and ultrasound technician should have the opportunity to care for families facing a prenatal diagnosis of a life-limiting condition. We merely recommend that each family should get consistency and familiarity in their individual care.
Collaborate: Work with Your Care Team Colleagues
Care provided during these pregnancies can require a multidisciplinary approach. Parents may opt to form a care team of doctors, specialists, doulas, and chaplains.
As members of a family’s care team, it is critical that the information coming from each of you is consistent. Parents will already be overwhelmed by information without having to sort through dissenting opinions and inconsistent recommendations. Regularly check in with your colleagues and work together to provide high quality support and care.
A care conference between the parents and every member of the care team is a critical practice in supporting these families. This is a time to discuss the family’s birth plan, understand their wishes for pregnancy, delivery, and the precious time they will have with their baby. This conference allows you, as the medical professionals, to plan and coordinate care according to the needs and preferences of the parents.
Taking the time to create the most consistent care possible for families facing prenatal diagnosis of a life-limiting condition will not only be greatly appreciated by those families, but by your staff, and by any other professionals involved in caring for those families.
Consistency is the second of the 3 C’s of compassionate care for carrying to term families. Learn more about the other two C’s in our posts on Communication and Special Considerations.
To learn more about caring well for families during post-diagnosis grief, anticipatory grief, and the bereavement period following loss, see this article.