Dr. Kristin Tully shares takeaways for NICU providers based on clinical and personal experience

Kristin Tully, PhD
March 8, 2024
3 min read

Kristin Tully, PhD is a Medical Anthropologist and Research Assistant Professor at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine. Her program of research centers around patient safety in maternity care and health care innovation. She works with organizations to co-develop effective, sustainable, and scalable solutions to advance health equity and improve pregnancy outcomes across generations.

Her work, while rooted in the latest research, is also highly personal. She’s a mom of 2, and  following the birth of her first daughter nine years ago, they found themselves in the NICU. Her experience informs her work philosophy—and her mission—today. 

“I certainly come at work as a whole person…to be helpful and authentically be present and learn….We all need people to listen, to listen to hear. And hopefully, we have relationships in whatever form they are so people can see what you’re not saying.”

Reflecting on her own postpartum experiences as a new parent, she hopes to progress the standard of care to engender more warmth and compassion into every parent’s journey.

“To establish more humanity in healthcare. To make sure autonomy and dignity and wellness and joy are goals alongside whatever health outcomes…it’s all about people and taking care of them.”


Kristin Tully, PhD offers a few pieces of clinical wisdom from her own NICU experience that she hopes will inform a better approach to care for this vulnerable population. 

Consider how you are engaging with your parents through body language and through your words. How can you convey trust and respect so parents feel comfortable sharing their story and asking for support? Eye contact, open-ended questions, and active listening are a few simple techniques to consider, but there is a lot of other work that can be done, too.

Often, the systems we have for feedback like text messages or surveys attract either really negative feedback or really positive feedback. The reality is that a single parent’s experience is mixed—some good, some bad. Think creatively about implementing effective systems that promote giving honest feedback without judgment, without repercussions. A warm, human touch either with check-ins from the care team or patient navigators are options for creating more open dialogue.