Baby monitors serve as new communication tool in Emory ICUs

Woodruff Health Sciences Center | April 22, 2020

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Janet Christenbury
(Media Contact)
jmchris@emory.edu

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Mary Beth Krivanek, a senior chaplain at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital, has been using a baby monitor and her cell phone to connect families with their loved ones in the ICU.

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ATLANTA – Baby monitors, often used as a link between a newborn and its parents, are being used in new ways at Emory Healthcare, linking ICU (intensive care unit) staff members with each other, while also providing a special connection for COVID patients and their family members.

The suggestion to use baby monitors came up during an ICU care team meeting at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital.

“With HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filtration in place in COVID ICU rooms to trap and filter air, the noise of the filtration sometimes makes communication difficult between staff working inside the rooms, who are also dressed in full PPE (personal protective equipment), and staff assisting outside of the rooms,” says William Bender, MD, MPH, assistant professor in the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, and site director for critical care at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital. “As we thought about a solution, one of our nurses suggested baby monitors.”

“We had been writing on the ICU glass windows to communicate with colleagues inside and outside of ICU rooms, but baby monitors seemed like a great, simple way to improve communication,” says Tanya Snipes, RN, a relief charge nurse at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital. “We place the unit that would normally be in a baby’s room in the ICU room, always keeping it turned on, and place the parent unit outside of the room. This allows staff to press a button and talk to those inside the room. Staff outside of the room can always hear what’s needed inside the room without entering, which helps in conserving PPE.”

Bender quickly placed an order to purchase baby monitors for all the ICU rooms at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital.

Chaplains have also found the baby monitors to be extremely helpful. Since family members cannot currently visit their loved ones in the ICUs because of visitor restrictions during the COVID crisis, Emory chaplains are using baby monitors and cell phones to help family members communicate with patients who are ill.

“Families are so appreciative of the opportunity to speak to their loved ones,” says Mary Beth Krivanek, a senior chaplain at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital. “The baby monitors are helping us provide that special connection between patient and family to help in the healing process.”

To keep the baby monitors charged for a duration of time, the spouse of a care team member jumped in to assist.

“Since unused outlets are sometimes scarce in the ICUs, the husband of a care team member, who is also an engineer, built battery packs to keep the baby monitors powered,” says Lisa Daniels, MD, assistant professor in the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine at Emory. “The battery packs keep the baby monitors powered for about five days without charging them.”

Since the baby monitors have become a valued piece of technology at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital, baby monitors have been ordered and are now in use in all COVID-designated ICUs throughout Emory Healthcare.