Study indicates stroller walks beneficial to parents of babies in NICU

A doctoral student at York University’s Schulich School of Business has published research on support programs for parents of babies in neonatal intensive care (NICU) that looks at the benefits of stroller walks.

Dr. Makini McGuire-Brown
Dr. Makini McGuire-Brown

Dr. Makini McGuire-Brown (BSc, MBBS, MBA and PhD candidate), a physician, is the first author on “The STEP Program—A Qualitative Study of the Supportive Therapeutic Excursion Program and Its Effect on Enabling Parental Self-Efficacy and Connectedness after the Stress-Experience of the NICU,” a study published in the journal Children that explores the effect on parents and staff of a novel and simple intervention of parents walking their baby in a stroller (Supportive Therapeutic Excursion Program (STEP).

“Support programs exist for neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) parents, but here with the addition of stroller walks, something so unassuming, we’ve uncovered an interesting phenomenon,” says McGuire-Brown.

The authors found that parents who participated in STEP reported a boost in self-efficacy and connectedness, two important elements for recovery from stressful situations. The study states: “The potential impact of STEP can be far reaching because, although future research is needed, these data suggest that inexpensive programs that promote normalcy may enable self-efficacy and connectedness prior to hospital discharge.”

While the paper focuses more on the positive clinical outcome for the patient families, the administrative side was also considered.

“It was instinctive to the physicians and nurses that STEP would be beneficial to these parents, but it took approval/conversation from several non-clinical departments for it to be implemented,” says McGuire-Brown. “It really emphasizes the importance of environments in which policies complement clinical work.

The study was authored in collaboration with the DAN Women and Babies Program at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.

After completing her MBA at Schulich and doing an individual study as one of her courses with her current PhD supervisor, Professor Marcia Annisette, McGuire-Brown realized that she could take her studies further by pursuing a PhD.

“I’m grateful for my unique perspective,” McGuire-Brown said. “Being a medical doctor who entered into the world of administration and then research, I am able to see through a unique lens and I hope that this will be beneficial for both the research community and in a practical way. I’m a big dreamer so I hope to continue to be a part of impactful research going forward!”