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Challenge: NICU Parenting

NICU and the workplace

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When my husband and I found out we were pregnant, we were ecstatic. When we found out we were having triplets, we had no idea what was about to happen. As the head of a large Human Resources department, I was intimately familiar with paid time off and maternity leave; in fact, I had crafted the policies.

I had a very specific plan for my maternity leave, the length of time I would be home, and a plan for returning to work.

However, when our triplets were born 4 weeks early and 2 of the 3 had to spend time in the NICU, we were at a loss for what to do. My husband was eligible for leave under his company's FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) policy but he didn't want to spend his entire leave in the hospital.

We decided that he would continue working through the NICU stay and take some leave after we all got home. His company allowed him flexible working hours so that he could visit the babies in the NICU before work and be there for the doctors' evening rounds.

Both triplets were in the NICU for about 8 days, although, at the time, it felt like a lifetime.

The three biggest stresses for working parents with children in the NICU are schedule, salary, and job security. Drafting a NICU leave policy that allows parents the flexibility to be with their child when they need to be without worrying about being fired or financially penalized is key.

Due to HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) managers are not always privy to the circumstances under which they are required to make certain schedule accommodations for their employees. Having a written policy in place allows the manager some degree of understanding a specific situation without having to give specifics and creates a workplace culture focused on employee retention.

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