Health Topics Information

Specialized neonatal care provided to newborns in need


What is a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)?
The birth of a baby is an exciting time. Every expectant parent has visions of a healthy bouncing baby, but in reality some newborns need specialized care when they enter this world. For these precious infants there is a dedicated location in some hospitals ready to provide the expert care they need – it’s a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Every year between 10 and 15 percent of babies born in the United States will end up in a NICU for reasons such as being born premature (born prior to 37 weeks gestation), birth defects, heart problems, breathing irregularities, infections, and other health complications.

Technologically Advanced NICU Equipment - Giraffe Omnibeds
When a baby is in the NICU, a controlled environment is best to assist the baby in healing and growing. Often times a neonate is placed in an incubator, which is a box-like medical device that provides a more precise atmosphere. It is made out of clear material for providers to observe and care for the baby. A Giraffe Omnibed is an incubator that has extra capabilities in regulating the baby’s body temperature and monitoring the baby’s vital signs.

How a NICU Serves Rural Communities
When a baby is born at a local hospital or medical center that does not have a NICU, and the baby needs the distinct care a NICU provides, a transport takes place. The delivering provider will visit with the Neonatologist, who is a physician in a NICU who specializes in the care of ill and premature newborns. The Neonatologist will discuss the baby’s condition and case with the delivering provider. If the Neonatologist agrees the baby needs advanced care, a NICU transport team is notified and called into action. A NICU transport team typically consists of NICU nurses and emergency medical technicians (EMTs). The NICU transport team takes a transport incubator to the baby’s location via ambulance or plane. A transport incubator is medical equipment that allows the transport team to safely and quickly transport the newborn from the rural medical center to the NICU. Once the NICU transport team arrives it immediately begins caring for the baby and the baby is placed in the transport incubator for travel to the NICU. The faster a baby is placed in the incubator and the faster it arrives to a NICU, the better outcomes it can have.

(Amy Dion-Rader, RN, is a clinical supervisor for CHI St. Alexius Health’s Children’s Center and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.)