This article appears in the October 2011 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.
The 436-staffed-bed University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Medical Center in Little Rock runs a webcam program that allows families to view infants in the NICU, no matter how far away they are.
Mothers and other family members can view and talk to the hospitalized infant at any time from anywhere in
the world through a secure password. The system allows for real-time video and one-way audio.
Hospital nurses teach family members to use the system, which is called Angel Eye. It requires access to a personal computer, through which families or even friends can register securely on a website.
“There are grandparents who have the website on all day long,” says Sarah Rhoads, DNP, APN, assistant professor for the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. “Friends, family members, aunts, uncles, and siblings can use the program, as long as the family consents with using the password,” she says. “It’s important, say, when a mom stays here, or a dad has to go back to work. They can look at the webcam and say, ‘My baby’s okay.’ They can look at the baby and have that extra sense of reassurance.”
The goal is reducing anxiety and promoting bonding in Arkansas, where the incidence of low-weight babies is among the highest in the nation. Moreover, the lack of available services in rural areas creates the need to transfer sick babies to larger hospitals many miles from home. The program is officially known as Antenatal and Neonatal Guidelines, Education and Learning Systems.
Some nurses hang notes on the Webcam, saying “Hi, Mom and Dad. I love you’ or ‘I just had a bath,’” Rhoads says.