Most people will be familiar with the term peer support, but what is the value of peer support in neonatal care?
For those that might not be familiar with neonatal care, the neonatal unit is a hospital ward which provides intensive or special care for babies. This might be because they have been born early, because they are sick, or because an event has taken place which has resulted in them needing specialist care and treatment.
The neonatal unit is an intense environment and parents can experience a lot of stress and anxiety.
This is where peer support can play a crucial role in helping the family cope with the emotional and practical challenges of having a baby in hospital.
Spoons volunteer peer supporters have had their own experiences of neonatal care as a parent. Their role as a peer supporter on the neonatal unit is to connect with other families who are going through similar experiences. Peer support enables parents to share their experiences, ask questions and be supported by those who can relate to what they are going through.
One of the main benefits of peer support is that it helps parents on the neonatal unit to feel less isolated. Having a baby on the neonatal unit can feel lonely at times, parents may feel friends and family don’t understand how they are feeling. Connecting with peer supporters creates new support networks and encourages parents to reach out to our wider neonatal community.
Peer support can help parents cope with emotional challenges of having a baby on the neonatal unit. Parents can experience a huge range of emotions and feelings. Some parents might feel angry about their situation, or guilty about the impact on other children at home. Talking these feelings through with those who shared a similar experience can help parents process their emotions and feel more hopeful about the future.
Peer support can also help parents with some of the practical aspects of neonatal care. Peer supporters will have an understanding of neonatal services and can help parents navigate the system. They can help parents understand the way the neonatal unit works, explain some of the terminology and support parents to speak to staff when they feel overwhelmed by information. Spoons peer supporters are trained to offer guidance and support to help families access the most appropriate support.
To sum it up peer support is a fantastic resource and peer support on the neonatal unit is invaluable.
We are keen to grow our peer support service and ensure that all neonatal units in Greater Manchester have access to peer support delivered by those with lived experience.
If you would like to find out more about becoming a Spoons volunteer peer supporter, head over to our volunteer page.