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NICU: What to Expect
The Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU) is a 75-bed unit consisting of intensive care beds, transitional care beds, and two family participation rooms where parents can stay with their baby before discharge.
The unit admits about 700 babies per year. A large portion of the admissions come from within the BJC HealthCare hospitals, however many are also received from all areas of the United States and other countries.
The NICU provides state of the art treatment and monitoring equipment, including:
- Surfactant therapy (a medicine that helps prematurely born babies to breath more easily)
- Conventional ventilation (helps infants breath)
- High frequency oscillatory ventilation (a type of rapid breathing machine that is necessary for some infants to help their lungs develop and heal)
The unit is staffed by specially trained physicians and nurses who specialize in treating sick newborns. In addition, nationally known surgical and specialists, including heart specialists, brain specialists, spinal cord specialists, kidney specialists and many others are available to consult on any problem that arises for infants. A pharmacist and dietitian are available in the NICU to ensure optimum care. Portable radiologic and diagnostic equipment is used when clinically feasible to reduce the need to move medically fragile patients for tests.
Focus on infant care and transition to home care
The obvious focus of the NICU is the care of medically fragile infants. Another focus is to help families make the transition from illness to wellness and help them overcome fear of their baby's condition when they are preparing for discharge.
A parent support group of parents who have had similar experiences is available to provide families with advice and support throughout their baby's stay. Full-time social workers are also available to facilitate parental coping.
Unlike other NICUs, this unit has a diverse population of newborn infants. Only about half of our babies are premature, with the other half comprised of full term infants requiring multiple services.
Parents are encouraged to visit their baby whenever they can (24 hours a day, 7 days a week). Parents may bring siblings to visit new brothers or sisters after your baby's nurse is sure that the sibling does not have a contagious disease. Parents are asked to provide a list of other relatives or friends who have permission to visit their baby. Because of space limitations, the NICU requests that each baby have only two visitors in the NICU at any time. Parent waiting rooms are available just outside the NICU for visitors to wait.
There are two family participation rooms in the NICU, where parents may stay overnight with their child before she or he is discharged. This is to help parents gain confidence in feeding, giving medicines, handling special equipment and to gain confidence with their baby. A parent lounge is also available which provides parents with beds, lockers, shower, and bathroom facilities.
As your new baby grows stronger and healthier, the NICU staff wants your stay to be as comfortable and pleasant as possible. Parents are encouraged to ask questions, make requests, become involved in discharge planning, and learn all they can about the care and treatment of their baby.
Full-time social workers are also available to facilitate parental coping.