Expanded Newborn Screening: Challenges to NICU Nurses

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Newborn screening programs provide testing for all newborns born in this country for conditions that can potentially cause death or disability. Currently each state is responsible for its programs and the number of disorders screened varies from state to state. The current universal recommended metabolic screening panel may include 32 to 58 disorders. Expansion of the programs has impacted the role of nurses in the neonatal intensive care units (NICUs). Nurses are responsible for facilitating the screening process, educating the family, and assisting with follow-up. In addition, they are the first-line defense for emotional, spiritual, and social support.


To review of the expansion of this program over time and discuss challenges the NICU nurse encounters.

Methods/Search Strategy:

Research literatures along with the national recommendation by governmental and professional agencies were reviewed to obtain evidence on current practice recommendations.

Findings/Results/implications for Practice and Research:

NICU nurses face several challenges with the expansion of newborn screening programs. This includes gaining knowledge to answer questions posed by empowered parents and educate them appropriately; ensuring quality of the process that minimizes errors and optimal communication; and, addressing ethical concerns about the storage and subsequent use of specimens. New and ongoing research can measure and ensure provision of quality services provided through the NICUs globally.

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