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NICU Support

Baby's Chart
By Robin H. Steinhorn, MD

 
Robin H. Steinhorn, MDQ. Are the parents of a NICU baby allowed to look at their child's chart? Is this encouraged or frowned upon?

A. Through having a baby in the NICU, a parent enters a whole new reality, and information is key to getting through the whole experience. It is important to understand all the reasons your baby needs to be in the hospital, as well as understand and help make the many important decisions that will need to be made. I feel that this is best done through frequent discussions with the people caring for your baby--both the doctors and the nurses. It is very normal to have lots of questions, and to find that an answer to one question only leads to more questions.

Parents are allowed to see their baby's medical chart during the hospitalization, and may request a copy of the chart after discharge. Your hospital may have some rules about this (for instance, a form may need to be filled out, a physician may need to be present if you read the chart while your baby is still in the hospital).

However, in my experience, most parents do not find reading the chart to be very helpful, at least during the hospitalization. While it contains all the information about your baby, it really should not contain any information you don't already know about. In addition, physicians and nurses use medical terminology and shorthand, which can be difficult to decipher and put into context.

Parents have a right to know all important information that is being recorded in the chart. However I think it is easier to get this information through frequent conversations with the neonatologist. I usually have the chart right with me when I meet with parents, because there are often laboratory results, xray results, or other details that need to be looked up. This often helps a meeting go more efficiently, and lets me make sure all the questions are completely answered. If a parent wants to see a specific test result, I can then share the written report with them and help them understand what it means for their baby. Most neonatologists would be more than willing to share test results in this way with you.

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