Analyzing PTSD and Building a Network of Resources to Alleviate Psychological Trauma in NICU Families
Posttraumatic stress disorder is a psychiatric disorder that can develop after exposure to a traumatic event, and it can cause affected individuals to relive the associated event through flashbacks or nightmares. This project centers around the prevalence of PTSD in parents of infants admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit. Past research has shown that these parents are at increased risk of developing traumatic stress symptoms, with affliction rates as high as 53% in mothers and 33% in fathers (Hua et al., 2018). With this statistic as a catalyst, the present text has a variety of aims, all hinging on the goal of easing the NICU journey for parents. This thesis explores the different types of therapy used in the treatment of traumatic stress, with a focus on trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT) and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) as these were shown to be the most effective in past research. A compilation of resources was also gathered that can now be distributed to NICU parents, including information on PTSD, how to access a therapist, and other helpful articles. An additional component of this project included the administration of a survey to NICU parents to gain a better understanding of their stress levels, what resources were most helpful to them, what barriers limited their ability to seek help, and their thoughts on a text-messaging resource service. Institutional IRB approval was received for this survey. The survey indicated that parents were very stressed when admitted to the NICU, but their stress levels tend to decrease over time. Parents also faced a variety of barriers, with the need to return to work or maintain a busy schedule being the most pervasive. Additionally, an analysis was completed on federal legislation relating to healthcare and the NICU experience. Furthermore, special considerations for limited English proficient (LEP) families were also considered. The paper concludes with steps that should be taken, in both research and action, to improve on the NICU experience for at-risk parents. The implementation of a text-messaging resource service for NICU parents was desired by survey respondents and is a recommended next step. Changes in policy surrounding insurance reform and longer, paid family leave would also be beneficial. Training of NICU staff on how to provide resources and communicate sensitively and effectively with parents is also crucial if the current situation is to be improved. There are definitive steps that should be taken immediately to ease the journey and provide comfort for NICU parents.