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Our nursery team has one of the best jobs on the planet. Every day Sibley welcomes more new lives into the world than any other hospital in Washington, DC. Each day, they get to be witness to some of the most precious moments in life. 

Occasionally, those moments are slightly delayed. After a C-section, the mother may not be able to get out of bed for up to 24 hours. If her baby has to spend any time in our special care nursery (SCN), it may be a day or more before they are reunited. 

So, Sibley’s special care nursery team tried an idea. What if we use iPads and FaceTime to connect families in those first special hours?

They prototyped the idea quickly and simply. An iPad was held over the baby’s isolette in the special care nursery. On another floor, Ryan Garvey, RN knocked on the door and asked the mother and father if they wanted to meet their little twins. 

For fifteen minutes the mother and father spoke softly and sweetly to their twins while Katherine Fleming, RN gently stroked little heads and held little hands. Katherine also used the video link to introduce herself and give the mother and father a report on how their babies were doing: “they are just doing great! In fact, they’re ready for some milk whenever you are up to it.” 

It’s not about the technology, the gadgets or the ideas; Sometimes its just about moments of connection.

From there, the Wink Project was born. A generous donation from Sibley’s Young Professional Board provided the means to make this unique experience available to any new parent separated from their newborn at Sibley.

Outfitting the SCN with the physical infrastructure needed to support the Wink Project proved challenging given the space constraints in the current nursery. The team initially prototyped a wall-mounted “arm” to hold the iPad above and around the infant isolette. Before installing this equipment in the nursery, the team set up an arm and isolette in the Innovation Hub to simulate the experience. This gave the team and staff an opportunity to see firsthand how the device would function and feel in a space like their own. As a result, the team realized that the arm was not the right fit.

Ultimately, we found that iPads mounted onto IV poles best met the needs of the current nursery. This set-up allows staff to easily wheel Wink devices in and out of the patient care area when needed. While the wall-mounted prototype may not work today, the team is still exploring this option for the future Special Care Nursery that is under construction.

As for the behind-the-scenes technology that supports Wink Visits, we teamed up with Johns Hopkins’ Video Collaboration Group. Together, the team found ways to use a videoconferencing software typically used for meetings to host special “Wink Visits” between new parents and their babies. Streamlining the process to cater to the needs of patients and staff on the Family Centered Care Unit (FCCU) and SCN required collaboration across the units. With insight from the Collaboration Group and the staff from the floor, the team established a user-friendly process to offer Wink Visits.

FCCU and SCN morning huddles gave our team an opportunity to present the project and walk through the process with the staff. Nurses on the floor were excited to learn about the process and eager to offer the Wink Visits to their patients. Additionally, morning huddle gave staff the opportunity to ask questions and offer suggestions for improvement. This soft roll out served as a kick off that helped bring the project to life on the patient floors. We continue to tweak the process and technology with the help of nursing staff, IT, and Hopkins’ Video Collaboration Group.

Moving forward, we hope to see the Wink Project expand beyond the Women and Infant Services units to virtually connect patients and families with other valuable resources here at Sibley.