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BWH’s tiniest patients need special attention, and their thin skin is no exception. In the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), premature infants are getting better skin care thanks to Corinne Cyr Pryor, BA, RNC, IBCLC.
Tubes, IVs and respiratory machines generally are held in place by tape, which can be damaging to premature babies’ skin. “Adults have 10 to 12 top layers of skin, but babies this young have only one to two, and that paper-thin skin is constantly in danger of becoming disrupted or torn, even by linens. It’s so thin it doesn’t always heal on its own,” said Pryor.
Pryor received a Thomson Compassionate Care Scholarship in 2003, enabling her to attend a conference to learn more about neonatal skin care. She then worked to modify skin care guidelines in the NICU. Teaming up with Marie Field, MS, RN, clinical nurse educator in the NICU, the duo formulated and executed those guidelines, first by seeking out vendors for access to products that are gentler on the skin of the smallest patients.
To help skin heal better and faster, Pryor formed a team she calls the Skin Care Squad to test new products, such as tapes, band aids and cushions made from silicone that are easily removed and do not affect skin pigmentation the way some sticky materials can. The team determined which products were gentlest on fragile skin and made the use of these products part of nurse competencies and education updates.
Babies’ skin doesn’t scab easily because of its fragility, a problem because scabs protect wounds from further injury. That’s why the Skin Care Squad chose products made of silicone that mimic a scab and help preserve skin to speed healing time.
Pryor and Field share information about these products with other departments, especially those treating elderly patients with fragile skin who are prone to pressure ulcers.
“We have shared our findings with other departments, including the OR and at Nursing Grand Rounds,” said Pryor. “We plan to present to nurse educators as well.”