Volunteer Cuddling

  1. Hi,

    I work in a 30 bed family centered unit. I am pretty new to NICU but have worked in critical care previously. "My" NICU does not have volunteer cuddlers. We usually have only one or two techs in the unit and they are usually pretty busy. We have had a number of babies whose parents were not able to visit often. When nights are slow RNs will hold pts that are ok for holding but most nights can be pretty busy.
    I took it upon myself to start developing a cuddling program. I am doing research, I've presented data to committees and hopefully will soon visit another NICU and maybe get some tips from their program.

    So, my question to you is...

    Does your unit have volunteer cuddlers? If so, what do they do? Are they allowed to hand swaddle patients in incubators?... or just hold OC babies? Can they hold intubated pts, unstable pts, or only stable pts?

    How big is your unit and how many volunteers do you have? What kind of training have you provided for volunteers?


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    About scrabblern, BSN, RN

    Joined: Jan '08; Posts: 39; Likes: 10
    Specialty: 10 year(s) of experience in CICU, NICU


  3. by   MandaAnda
    We don't have anything like that, and I could see it being very difficult to organise with the volunteers having to be health & safety and police (due to working with vulnerable patients) cleared first. And with the amount of nurses, doctors, visiting families that we already have on the unit, it would be very crowded.

    We occasionally have babies that the parents don't come to visit, and if I'm looking after one of those babies (or even if I'm not but am not busy when the baby's nurse is), I make time to give that baby a cuddle, whether it be a break between all of my babies, when the baby is bottle-fed if it is, etc. We only ever really have four babies each, maximum, so I don't think it's too hard to find time if you want to.
  4. by   Mimi2RN
    We have cuddlers in our stepdown unit, daytime only. As far as I know, they only deal with stable growing preemies or term babies. They can do nipple feedings at the discretion of the RN. They are especially useful with some drug exposed infants.
  5. by   ilstu99
    No. Our volunteers don't do any patient care. The only babies that our techs are allowed to hold are in cribs, so generally the grower/feeder population. Even then, we still practice developmental care and cluster our hands-on interventions. The only exceptions would be the kids that are closer to daycare, but we don't often have very many of those. So our need for a cuddling program would be pretty slim.
  6. by   NICUplease
    I am a nursing student that that will start volunteering in a NICU Cuddler Program at OU next month. I am soooo excited!!! The process for applicants are pretty lengthy with background checks, drug screenings, etc. New volunteers have to have an orientation/training session before they start. From what I understand, the volunteers can ONLY hold the babies. If they are in incubators and cannot be held we can put our hands through and provide some human touch. Vol can ONLY feed babies ready to be dc. I'm not sure exactly how many vol OU has but there were lmtd amt of spots available. Vol can volunteer anytime during the day. Most either do mornings or evenings. No one really volunteers at night but thats bc of choice not limitations. My schedule is every Sat from 4pm-10ish or longer if I choose to. I'll give you more info once I start. Hope this helps.
  7. by   RN4Little1s
    Does your hospital have a volunteer program at all? In other areas? If so, they may be able to help with the screening/selection process - and then you could even be more picky. I think all of our volunteers had to be on another floor first (pediatric hospital) and then they could do NICU. They all wear the same color of shirt that clearly identifies them. When they hear a screaming baby, they offer their name and their services! They must sit in the chair and then we transfer the baby to them and put them away - no feeds or interventions allowed. Just holding, rocking, giving their paci, etc. They may not hold intubated babies, and they are not supposed to hold trachs but they do when nurses feel comfortable letting them.
  8. by   Preemienurse23
    We have one cuddler. Shes older, so she dosent come regular, though I wish she was able to. I love it when I have a screamer and I dont have the time to sit and hold them. She does wrap the kids with no IV's, but anything else, we wrap and hand to her. We only have her hold the kids in cribs. I'm not sure of the background checks, but I can find out. Some days I wish that I had a little more time. I had one over the weekend that just needed to be held, and I just didnt have the time with my other 2.
  9. by   canoehead
    I used to be a NICU cuddler before I got my RN job, and if the NICU wasn't hopping I'd go down to other floors and help out. I think it helped my job application when I applied to the floor I helped out on most. I was able to cuddle, feed and change diapers.

    The same hospital has volunteer grandparents. When families live far away, and can't stay with their child, a volunteer signs up and is committing to see that child so many times a week for the length of their stay. We used to get kids from 10-11 hours away, and parents can't stay if they have a job and other children in school. Some of the chronically ill kids would be there for months, and they got quite close to their Grampies and Gammies, and the relationship with the whole family would develop over time as they came back for tune ups.

    If you are making a spot for cuddlers, make sure you have a spot for knitters and crocheters too. Some elderly can't make it in to cuddle, but they have a ball knitting blankets, hats, and finger puppets. My great aunt Berna (a retired nurse) would buy sweaters at yard sales, unravel them, and then crochet granny square afghans. There was some rivalry in her knitting club over who made the most and the prettiest blankets, and they mailed them in regularly. The lab supported a whole finger puppet industry. Every time a child got stuck they'd get to pick one. Get enough finger puppets, and popsicle sticks going and you had an invading army to mash your roommate with!
  10. by   Atheos
    You can volunteer to cuddle babies???

    That's awesome, I need to look into that here. Wait, would it be weird for a man to be interested in that?
  11. by   elizabells
    No, Stanley, do it! Our NICU doesn't use cuddlers, because our volunteers (and NAs, for that matter) aren't allowed to touch patients, but I'd love it if we did.
  12. by   UTVOL3
    Quote from Stanley-RN2B
    You can volunteer to cuddle babies???

    That's awesome, I need to look into that here. Wait, would it be weird for a man to be interested in that?
    Awww c'mon. You're not scared of what other people will think are ya?:wink2:
    We have several cuddlers. They can hold whoever the nurses think is ok to be up. They have different comfort levels and so do the nurses. Some will change diaper, swaddle baby, remove them from the isolette and get themselves all aranged without help. Others, it's more like we just find them a chair and hand them the kid. Either way, it helps, especially with the NAS kids.
    They are volunteers through the hospital that have chosen to go through a seperate "cuddler" class. I think the hospital provides some liability insurance for the
  13. by   scrabblern
    @stanley - totally not odd to be interested in that. i know of a (male) flight nurse that cuddled preemies in his spare time. his pic cuddling a baby is actually on the hospital's nicu cuddler brochure
  14. by   Galore
    We have cuddlers in our level II nursery and sometimes they are a godsend when you have 4 babies and some of them are screaming! I know they go through an extenive screening process and usually they just hold or comfort the more stable feeder/grower kids. Usually the nurse will wrap the baby up and hand them to the cuddler who will sit and rock the baby, it's up to the nurse's discretion but I have rarely seen them hold a baby from an isolette. I don't think they really do care either. Most of them are girls from the university (we're a teaching hospital) but we have some middle aged volunteers including a guy too. They are usually there on days and early evenings, unfortunately not many choose to come in on nights.