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Inside Burnaby Hospital’s NICU Cuddler Program

Inside Burnaby Hospital’s NICU Cuddler Program

March 03, 2024

In the halls of Burnaby Hospital, amidst the beeping of life-saving equipment and the swift footsteps of medical professionals, the newly implemented Neonatal Intensive Care (NICU) Cuddler Program provides newborns with comfort and compassion. At the heart of this initiative is Jeanette Nelson, a 65-year-old with a love of children and passion for giving back.

“I’ve always loved children,” Jeanette shares. “With over 130 nieces, nephews, greats, and even a few great-greats, I’ve gained a lot of experience in cuddling that I’m hoping to put to good use.”

Jeanette is a dedicated volunteer who spends time comforting Burnaby Hospital’s tiniest patients and providing much-needed support to the NICU staff through the Cuddler Program. Crafted with a specific goal in mind, this program aims to provide newborns with essential contact, especially in situations where parents are unable to be present.

The benefits for these babies are vast: stabilized heart rates, regulated body temperatures, accelerated weight gain, improved oxygen levels, and heightened pain tolerance, to name a few. But beyond these advantages, the Cuddler Program operates as a complementary support system, enabling hospitals to maintain a high standard of care despite limited resources.

Trained volunteers like Jeanette offer an additional set of hands and a compassionate touch, allowing medical professionals to focus on other pressing tasks without compromising the infant’s well-being. Additionally, volunteer involvement fosters a sense of community and solidarity within the hospital environment, enhancing the overall patient experience and cultivating a collaborative atmosphere where everyone works together to achieve the best outcomes for the babies under their care.

For Jeanette, dedicating one day a week to caring for the hospital’s youngest patients has been a transformative experience. “One of the major impacts on my life is learning to slow down and just sit,” she reflects. “Holding a newborn baby is an excellent way to do that.”

But the impact goes beyond personal growth. “I’ve gained a sense of doing something good and worthwhile from this experience,” Jeanette adds. “I feel like what I am doing is not only helpful to the nurses on duty but also a good thing for the babies themselves.”

The significant impact of the Cuddler Program is just one way Burnaby Hospital is bettering care available to patients, as many other significant changes continue to unfold.  The first phase of Burnaby Hospital’s redevelopment, supported by the Foundation’s Bright Future campaign, includes necessary upgrades to the Maternity Department and NICU, and is on track to complete in 2025. With each cuddle and compassionate touch and each moment of comfort provided, volunteers such as Jeanette are also helping shape a brighter future for healthcare at Burnaby Hospital from within.