For the last two years, Dawn DiSalvo, M.S.N., ARNP, NNP-BC, RNC-NIC, has become an unconventional grocer-manager of sorts at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital.
Her career began 14 years ago as a unit clerk in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit. After nursing school, she worked at UF Health Jacksonville and came back to UF Health Shands in Gainesville in 2013. DiSalvo has worked for the past two years as the NICU clinical leader. When she began, a large portion of her position was spent implementing and managing the “Human Milk Room.”
“The Human Milk Room is a room that stores all human milk for the entire hospital,” DiSalvo said. “This includes any patient who is admitted who is lactating and any child who is receiving milk as nutrition.”
Staffed 24/7, technicians collect all pumped milk, deliver milk feeds to patients, maintain the hospital’s supply of donor milk and store the milk according to national standards established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Human Milk Banking Association of North America.
An initial evaluation found that the 70 percent of NICU mothers who were pumping milk for breastfeeding were providing enough milk for 1,200 containers per week — and the number of containers was growing.
“We went from one chest freezer to seven commercial-grade deep freezers in a matter of a few years,” she said.
While the program began to support NICU mothers and babies, it has evolved to provide support for the entire hospital. The Human Milk Room continues to be housed in the NICU.
This quality and safety program has had a great impact on patient care. It was implemented to meet the highest national standards established for quality and patient safety, as well as the hospital’s Big Aims. The hospital reduces harm by having specially trained staff members maintain all environmental, logistical and operational aspects of the milk room. The milk room reduces variation in storage by having a single location for milk to be stored and monitored. The trained technicians provide bedside service, enhancing the patient experience.
The program also enables the hospital to assist mothers in contacting milk banks to donate their milk. The hospital can then use screened and pasteurized donor milk for sick preterm infants.
“Even those of us heading the project were not aware of the large volume of milk that this hospital handles on a daily basis,” she said.
More broadly, this project and its staff have increased the level of lactation support throughout the hospital. DiSalvo notes that care teams in other specialties are thinking about the unique needs of lactating mothers and call her team for support. This increased awareness supports the principles and mission of Baby-Friendly U.S.A., a designation the hospital earned earlier this year.
DiSalvo said, “I think as a hospital we are improving the support for lactating mothers and are now providing the best nutrition
for the babies.”