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Addressing Unconscious Bias in the NICU

Prematurity does not discriminate. Women of every race, religion and socioeconomic background experience premature birth of their babies every year. But black women in the United States experience disproportionate and unacceptable poor maternal health outcomes. A growing body of research about black infant mortality finds systemic racism and the chronic stress of being a black woman in this country are leading factors in the gap in birth outcomes.

Debbie Allen, the owner and clinical director of Tribe Midwifery, was quoted in a recent article titled, “What Pregnant Black Women Need to Know to Have a ‘Safe and Sacred Birth,’” saying, “Walking around in a black body can be stressful as heck. It’s amazing. But it’s also stressful.” She went on to highlight the importance of social support and the impact it can have on the mother’s physical, emotional and mental health.

Hand to Hold’s mission is not to tackle the systemic barriers that have contributed to the disparity in maternal health outcomes, but to ensure our programs and services are designed to meet the needs of all moms in the NICU. We are on the front lines to provide the critical social support black moms have traditionally found lacking in healthcare. Not surprisingly they are more reluctant to trust medical staff and have reported feeling unheard and unimportant. Sadly, they often do not feel like a valued partner in their child’s care.

Through a “Focus on the Fourth” [trimester] grant provided by St. David’s Foundation in Austin, Texas, Hand to Hold is working to address these issues by:

  • launching an awareness campaign that resonates with women of color,
  • increasing the number of women of color on our Board of Directors, staff and as peer mentors,
  • updating our mentor training to address issues for women of color, and
  • connecting women of color to resources through CareStarter’s Care Map.

 

We are working to help NICU moms of color to:

  • recognize signs and symptoms of postpartum depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder,
  • seek support when these issues are identified,
  • feel confident in integrating themselves into their baby’s care team,
  • become confident and competent caregivers to their medically fragile infants, and
  • feel confident advocating for their child’s needs.

 

In addition, Hand to Hold is dedicated to:

  • understanding and empathizing with the challenges NICU moms of color face,
  • helping NICU professionals better understand challenges NICU moms of color face.

 

Recently, Hand to Hold sponsored a training for NICU medical professionals in Austin titled Identifying and Mitigating Unconscious Bias. Despite our best efforts, it is almost impossible not to develop some unconscious bias over a lifetime. The training provided a safe environment in which medical professionals could share their feelings and open up about the challenges of serving a diverse population in the NICU.

Hand to Hold is proud to be part of the important dialogue and direct action taking place on a local and national level. But we have only begun to scratch the surface to address the damage done by generations of systemic racism. Our job is to ensure all moms who experience a NICU stay with their baby know without a doubt that with us, they have a Hand to Hold.


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Nurses and NICU Parents Glad to Have Hand to Hold at Seton Medical Center Austin

Hand to Hold officially launched our partnership with Seton Medical Center Austin on January 22, providing in-hospital bedside support to all families in Seton's NICU. Hand to Hold Ambassador Cristal Carrasco says the nurses at Seton are very excited to have Hand to Hold in the NICU. "This type of support has been a great need for parents, a need that is finally being met," says Cristal, who is also a Seton NICU graduate parent.

In February Cristal kicked off weekly support groups with a Valentine's Day celebration where parents gathered for snacks, crafts and community. Several families have already requested and been connected with peer mentors, reporting back that they are so glad they made the request.  


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More than $29,500 Raised by Team Hand to Hold!

Whether it was 3.1, 13.1 or 26.2 miles, we want to thank everyone who came out to run, walk and volunteer with Team Hand to Hold at the Austin Marathon, Half Marathon and Paramount 5k!  

Our team raised more than $19,500 for NICU and bereaved families, and thanks to a $10,000 matching grant from The Moody Foundation, our grand total is $29,500+ and still climbing! Thanks to you, thousands of families will have access to powerful peer support and educational resources to reduce the effects a NICU stay or loss of a baby has on the family.

We also could not have done it without our volunteers, who kept runners hydrated and motivated at our mile 19 aid station. We hope you had just as much fun as we did!

Special thanks to Austin Retina Associates and Richard's Rainwater for sponsoring and supporting our team!

Want to get involved? Find out how to participate in our Team Hand to Hold Virtual 5K!


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Join Us at Speaking of NEC: Unplugged

Hand to Hold is a proud sponsor of Speaking of NEC: Unplugged, a one-day regional conference focused on identifying practical solutions for reducing the devastating effects of Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC) on premature infants and their families. Join us on Monday, March 25 for this free educational and inspiring event. Speaking of NEC: Unplugged is presented by the Morgan Leary Vaughn Foundation.   Learn more and register for the event here.


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Welcome Lexi, Faith and Tamara!

We're happy to introduce three new members of the Hand to Hold team!

Lexi LoschLexi Losch joins us as our Community Engagement Specialist to bring awareness to the Austin community about the many ways Hand to Hold can socially and emotionally support families before, during and after a NICU experience. She holds a Bachelor’s in Psychology, a Master’s in Higher Education, and she recently completed a Master’s in Professional Counseling.

Faith WilsonFaith Wilson joins us as our new Ambassador at St. David's North Austin Medical Center. Faith's son, Calvin, was born at 32 weeks and spent 35 days in the NICU. Faith is a Registered Nurse and has a passion for caring for the family unit as a whole and guiding mothers through the ups and downs of the NICU.


Tamara HumphreysTamara Humphreys comes to Hand to Hold as our new Event Coordinator. Tamara has been recognized as a thought leader in her industry, with more than 17 years of experience in sales management, golf and country club membership and sales, hospitality management and wedding and event planning.

 
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Relaunching the Beyond the NICU Support Group

In February we relaunched our Beyond the NICU Support Group, an opportunity for parents to find community and connection with other NICU graduate parents in the Austin area. Support group meetings are held from 10-11:30 a.m. on the first and third Saturday of each month at the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Texas. We're excited to see this new support group grow!   Learn more and share here.


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From the Blog

Our First Year Home With Our Preemie by Stephanie Durfee. Parents are thrilled to get their baby home, but the first year home from the NICU can be filled with appointments, uncertainty and a lot of work.

Connections While Quarantined: Isolation in the NICU by Lindsay Rosenfeld. Creating and benefiting from connections with other NICU parents can be tough when isolated in the NICU.

10 Life Lessons I Learned After Experiencing Life’s Greatest Joy and Most Devastating Challenge by Charles George. Losing a child is an indescribable and stressful event. Charles shares ten life lessons he learned after losing his son to complications from a congenital heart defect. 

Pregnancy After a Preemie by Ima Carnelus. Enduring a pregnancy after having a preemie can be scary and stressful. Ima shares how this pregnancy has differed from her last, both physically and emotionally.


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About Hand to Hold

Hand to Hold helps families before, during, and after NICU stays and infant loss by providing powerful resources for the whole family, and most importantly, one-on-one mentoring from someone who has been there. Read more.


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CONTACT US

Toll-Free: 855-424-6428
Email: info@handtohold.org
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