Friday Fast Five - meet Jenifer Degl

Each month we interview individuals associated with the Australasian NIDCAP Training Centre and the broader NIDCAP Federation International (NFI) community, asking them five questions that explore their association with our unit and NIDCAP.

 This month, meet Jennifer Degl (NY, USA) an author, teacher and the mother of four, including a 23-week micropreemie named Joy.  Joy is Jennifer’s fourth child who was born 17 weeks premature. Jennifer is an active member of The International Neonatal Consortium, the Preemie Parent Alliance, and  a member of NIDCAP Federation International Board of Directors as a  Family Representative, You can learn more about Jennifer at https://www.speakingformomsandbabies.com.

How long have you been associated with the NIDCAP Federation International (NFI)?  

I joined NIDCAP in 2017 after attending the Trainer's Meeting in Edmonton, Canada. It was an immediate fit. Everything that I heard during the presentations and every conversation I had with members spoke to me. I first learned about the NFI while doing research as I was writing my first book about my daughter’s premature birth and then I met Mandy Daly and she knew that I would instantly connect with the NFI’s mission. She was right.

 What is your role in the NIDCAP international community?

I have been a member of the Board of Directors since the fall of 2019. Before I joined the Board of Directors, I was on the Family Advisory Committee (since 2017) and I am also a co-chair of the Advancement Committee.

What has been the most meaningful learning for you during your NIDCAP journey?

I learn more during each phone call, meeting or as I research ways to advance the reach of the NFI and NIDCAP. As a preemie mom and a science teacher, I have to say that I love the research and data surrounding the APIB. The fact that one can “read” each baby individually and create a care plan based on a baby’s behavior and cues and not just on radiological exams and blood tests continues to fascinate me. As an educator, I understand the value of creating individual plans for students and not putting each person in one box. This applies to babies in the NICU as well and I just love the science behind it and how it helps newborns.

 In your opinion how does NIDCAP potentially benefit newborns, families and staff?

My daughter was born at 23 weeks gestation in 2012 at just 575 grams (1 lb 4 oz) and was not even as long as a ruler. She spent 121 days in the NICU and endured more pain and medical procedures than most healthy adults experience in their entire lifetime. I would have given anything to reduce her pain and keep her comfortable during her time in the hospital. The practices of NIDCAP and the NFI would have been so helpful to me back then, if I only knew they existed. I believe that every baby cared for under the NIDCAP practice will not only have improved short-term outcomes in the NICU, but the effects and benefits will last after discharge.  When babies show signs of improvement and the length of  NICU stays decrease, the staff wins as well because they see how important their work is and they know they are helping improve outcomes for babies and families. It’s a win-win!

 What do you hope NIDCAP training centres achieve now and in the future?

I have a lot of thoughts on how to ensure the NFI and the NIDCAP practice is sustainable as we move into the future. Our future world is infused with technology and e-learning and we (the NFI) will need to move into this digital world so that we can continue to help the babies and families for generations to come. I would love for the training centers have more distance learning options to train their students. Nothing can replace the human connection and in-person relationships, but we will need to begin to come up with ways that add some virtual courses to our training and certification. This will allow us to communicate in a more global manner and spread our reach, as well as speak to a generation that speaks and lives their lives via their personal devices. That is one of my wishes for the future, although it will take some time to design and implement it well so that we do not lose any of our core values in the process. I believe we can do it.

Editor's note: The views of individuals do not represent the view of the Australasian NIDCAP Training Centre.