“It was hard. It was very hard, but if you look at them now, no one even knows they were preemies. They are very healthy and busy. It’s everything I dreamed when I was sitting there watching them beside that bed; I was dreaming of this day. So all the noise in the background is pure joy. Pure joy.”   — Latoshia Rouse, mother

Latoshia Rouse’s triplets are 3 years old now (2016), but they were born at 26 weeks gestation and required more than four months of inpatient hospital care. The rotating staff, medication changes, exhausting days and draining nights were an additional strain on an anxious mom.

“If I was at home, I needed to know that at 3 in the morning, when I woke up and called to see what happened over the last couple of hours, I would hear a reassuring voice,” she says.

Latoshia immediately became an active advocate in the care of her children. “I saw myself as the only constant at their bedside, because doctors change, but parents know their baby best,” she says. “One doctor may do one thing that the next one is not aware of, and the only fixture is the parent.” 

Latoshia was determined to be part of the care required to meet the unique needs of her babies. She researched their conditions and made sure the medical staff understood what she needed. After the babies were discharged, she also relied on resources provided by the Vermont Oxford Network and the Perinatal Quality Collaborative of North Carolina to further help her communicate with medical staff.

“I asked a ton of questions,” she says. “Everything I had, I gathered it all up, and whether it made sense or not, I would ask the doctor.” 

Parental Passion

Latoshia’s passion for obtaining the best medical care possible for her children inspired her to work toward quality improvement in the care of all children. As a current member of the two collaboratives that once supported her, she is a patient and family advisor for WakeMed Health and Hospitals in Raleigh, N.C., bringing a parent perspective to the newborn intensive care unit (NICU) and antepartum improvement committees.

“Working with a collaborative has helped me to see how the medical staff working together with the parents can help to make health care better in general,” Latoshia said. “I hope that more doctors and staff start to value parents as resources of valuable information.”

She has also shared her perspective with the ABP and recently described the ABP and its quality improvement initiatives at the launch of the National Network of Perinatal Quality Collaboratives (NNPQC) in Fort Worth, Texas. The NNPQC, sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the March of Dimes, supports the development and enhances the ability of both emerging and established state perinatal quality collaboratives to make measurable improvements in maternal and infant health.

Capt. Wanda D. Barfield, MD, MPH, U.S. Public Health Service, who is director of the CDC Division of Reproductive Health, met Latoshia at the NNPQC launch.

“Ms. Rouse is doing amazing work to give parents an audible voice in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit,” Capt. Barfield says. “She is improving the quality of parental involvement in the care of their critically ill newborns.”

Latoshia believes that her efforts to actively participate, stay in constant communication and ask numerous questions may serve as a model to help redefine the role parents have in the care of their children. “I hope that more doctors and staff start to value parents as resources of valuable information,” she says.