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Bright Futures

Articles and Updates from Phoenix Children's

May 05, 2021, Lara N. Ulm, MD
Phoenix Children’s NICU NEST Clinic: A Nest Above the Rest
Phoenix Children’s NICU NEST Clinic: A Nest Above the Rest

In April 2020, amidst the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Phoenix Children’s Hospital saw their first NEST (Newborn Early Screen Team) Clinic patients via ZOOM appointments. Creating this clinic took a dedicated team and many months of prep work. Now, one year in, we can see multiple families in person and via ZOOM at three different clinic facilities throughout the week across the valley.

The Phoenix Children’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) NEST Clinic specializes in developmental follow up of our most fragile population: premature, at-risk, and medically complex infants. This clinic is an important piece of infant care designed to provide additional support to infants and families after birth and discharge from the hospital. We use a multidisciplinary approach using a team of early infancy and childhood developmental experts to monitor developmental milestones and provide outpatient therapeutic support and medical specialty referrals to help children reach their full potential early in their childhood. Our developmental team includes physicians specializing in development (neonatologists, neurologists, and developmental pediatricians), pediatric therapists (occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech/language pathology), social services and nurse coordinators. We see patients from hospital discharge to 3 years of age.

The clinic visit consists of two appointments in one. Families have an opportunity to see one of our physicians who take time to go over past medical issues, current concerns, and a brief developmental overview along with a physical exam. Families also see a team of therapists who, together with the parents, preform an in-depth developmental screening using the Bayley testing format. The team then discusses the results of these evaluations and forms an individualized plan for the patient. The families can also talk with social work to discuss any issues with community resource access.

All referrals for outpatient therapies or subspecialty follow-up are made at the time of the visit providing a one-stop visit for the families. Patients are then followed up every 3-6 months up to 3 years old, if needed. We also provide dedicated nurse coordinators who help families with medically complex infants navigate the healthcare system, making sure follow up appointment are made, and appropriate care is available and accessible.

For the team, the most rewarding part of the clinic has been to provide this service which was previously unavailable through Phoenix Children’s Hospital - seeing patients, identifying developmental issues, and being able to provide outpatient support for those families. This clinic was created as a resource to the community elevating Phoenix Children’s Hospital’s dedication to children’s healthcare and wellbeing in the valley and beyond. We see infants from all over the valley and the state of Arizona. Our NEST Clinic has quickly become an essential part of outpatient care for the premature, at-risk, and medically complex infant.

Thanks to the support of Phoenix Children’s Hospital, our NEST Clinic team helped multiple families across the state of Arizona over the last year. We plan to expand the clinic to help all infants who could benefit from early screening and follow up.

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