Donor gift brings family coach to the NICU

A family expecting a baby has so many hopes, dreams and expectations. For many, experiencing a difficult childbirth, a short- or long-term stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for their newborn baby, was not part of the “plan.” Even when a NICU stay is anticipated because of health needs, it is a great stressor on the family.

Sharon Hempel, family coach (left), partners with clinical staff to meet the needs of families in the NICU.

Sharon Hempel, family coach (left), partners with clinical staff to meet the needs of families in the NICU.

That is why Aurora Family Service and Aurora West Allis Women’s Pavilion partnered to support families in the NICU with their very own family coach, Sharon Hempel.

The Family Coaching program is made possible through a generous gift from an anonymous donor who had cared for premature infants and wanted to help NICU families.  A licensed family therapist, Hempel finds joy and purpose in engaging, coordinating, supporting and strengthening families throughout their health care experience.

“I am here to help them emotionally cope with the experience,” said Hempel. “It is difficult when you are discharged from the hospital, but your baby is not. It is so hard for the family unit to find that new way of being – struggling with balancing time with their baby in the hospital, kids at home, work and more. And if mom or dad (or both) are experiencing post-partum depression, anxiety or birth-related, post-traumatic stress disorder, it becomes tremendously important to have that network of support.”

Because of this generous gift through Aurora Health Care Foundation, they don’t have to struggle alone. The experiences of mothers, fathers and family units when their baby needs 24/7 medical care are complex. So Hempel collaborates with the medical team, physicians, nurses, occupational therapists and others to make sure the families receive what they need and feeling equipped to manage this difficult time.

“Families come to the NICU with their own unique strengths,” explained Hempel. “I am here to help families facilitate a plan to best utilize their strengths, in order to manage the emotional ups and downs of their hospital experience.”

The families who have relied on the NICU for their baby know how important that support truly is.

To support the Family Coaching program or other needs of the NICU at Aurora Women’s Pavilion, contact Elaine Maly at or 414-219-7827.

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