If all goes to plan — and, granted, very little has gone to plan in 2020 — Princeton Health Community Wellness will resume in-person programs in July. Yet the new normal will not be business as usual. Class sizes will be smaller, masks will be required, attendees will be screened for a fever and other symptoms, and extra precautions will be taken to ensure social distancing and limit potential exposure to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).
“We will do this carefully, always following the guidance of infectious disease experts,” said Debbie Millar, RN, director, Community Wellness.
Social distancing became the norm in March, as COVID-19 began to spread across New Jersey with no vaccine or proven treatment in sight. Community Wellness quickly embraced videoconferencing to offer virtual versions of childbirth and family education classes; support groups; educational programs related to managing a wide array of chronic conditions; even yoga classes. Through mid-June, Community Wellness provided 145 virtual programs with 2,843 viewers.
The only in-person programs since March have been CPR training classes that Princeton Health staffers and other professionals need to maintain licenses or certifications. Classes were conducted at half-capacity. Masks were required, and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation was dropped.
Those precautions will remain in place when Community Wellness resumes Family & Friends CPR classes in July, Millar said. Other programs set to resume in-person sessions include Birthing Basics, Baby Care, and Prenatal Breastfeeding Instruction. An in-person breastfeeding support group, postponed since March, is also set to restart.
Bernadette Flynn-Kelton, RN, and Carolyn Schindewolf, educators and board certified lactation consultants with Community Wellness, noted that maternity tours at Princeton Medical Center remain canceled. To help fill that void, Community Wellness recently started a virtual pregnancy and postpartum support group, providing a weekly platform to address questions or concerns from expecting parents and connect them to resources. That support group will continue to meet virtually. Another relatively new program, Mental Health First Aid, also will only be offered virtually in July.
Participant feedback on virtual sessions has been about even — roughly half loved the convenience, while the other half would have preferred to be there in person. As a result, many programs will be offered both ways.
A few programs, however, are better suited to in-person presentation. For example, HypnoBirthing, a five-session program for expecting moms and their partners, was presented virtually in May and June by Lisa Stout, RN. The next program will be offered in person, if possible. Daddy Boot Camp, a popular class for first-time expecting fathers, also works better in person, but it will remain virtual for now.
Before COVID-19, each session would include a dozen or more soon-to-be-dads, their instructor Greg Barron, and veteran fathers — often graduates of Daddy Boot Camp — who would bring their babies to the class.
For men who are inexperienced with babies, the opportunity to observe and hold a baby — perhaps for their first time ever — is invaluable, Flynn-Kelton said. Because the pandemic is still ongoing, veteran dads will not bring their babies into live classes for the foreseeable future.
The virtual version of the workshop will continue to provide valuable insight on preparing for the baby’s arrival, supporting mom physically and emotionally, and parenting as a team.