Interview with Dr Atle Moen on NICU design

Photo Credit: Dr Atle Moen

In this month’s Chair Team Interview, Dr Atle Moen talks with us about pressing issues in NICU design.

EFCNI: What would you say are the most important topics in the field of NICU design?
Atle Moen (AM): The most important topic in NICU design is how to design the NICU so that we facilitate unrestricted infant-parent contact. Most NICUs are still overcrowded, noisy and with too little space and we know that such an environment does not meet the needs of neither the child nor the parents and could be described as a hostile environment.

EFCNI: Why is this so important?
AM: According to the UN conventions on Rights of the Child all children have the right not to be separated from their parents. That is an ethical and human rights issue and not an issue of scientific proof. When that is said there is also an increasing and large amount of research literature documenting how a protected environment for the child, parental presence and skin-to-skin care favour medical stability and development.

EFCNI: What are the major challenges in NICU design in Europe?
AM: To at least set a minimum standard so that sick newborns have the same possibilities as every other hospitalised patient, that is to be treated as an autonomic individual. There are hundreds of NICUs around Europe designed without offering a single thought to the view of the patient and not taking into consideration the experience of being patient in this environment. This is first and foremost a question of changing the mind sets of health administrators, doctors and nurses working with these patients so that they become their patients’ advocates and speak up about their needs.

EFCNI: How would you wish the field to develop? What is your wish for the future of the field of NICU design?
AM: I hope that the normal setting in the NICU of the future will be one patient, two parents and a secluded space for this triad to stay together 24/7. We must (re)build NICUs that let parents be the caregiver of their child(ren) from birth to discharge no matter how sick or small the child(ren) may be. Parents are the best advocates for their children’s rights but we have to make them feel welcome, competent and responsible as parents. Otherwise they will be too afraid to speak up against health professionals when they disagree or see things differently.

View more: European Standards of Care for Newborn Health project