Neonatal Intensive Care Unit
What Are All Those Tubes?!
Many parents wonder how long will their preemie needs to stay in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). The first things that may strike you when you go into a neonatal unit are the heat, the bright lights, the sounds, alarms, the busyness of the nurses and doctors, and the number of machines being used.
The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) is the department of the hospital which cares for prematurely born babies (preemies) who are not fully developed, have problems during delivery, or babies who develop problems while still in the hospital and therefore are unable to survive on their own without the assistance of monitoring equipment, incubators, and ventilators.
A premature baby may be born needing help with three very important and basic things: keeping warm, breathing, and feeding. The equipment you see in a neonatal unit either will help your baby do any, or all, of these, or monitor him to see how he is managing and checking whether he needs any additional support. Although all NICUs care for babies who need extra help, different NICUs offer different levels of care.
Getting to know the Neonatal Staff
It is important to become familiar with each team of doctors that will be taking care of your preemie. The staff usually consist of a neonatologist, nurses, respiratory therapists, occupational therapists, social workers, pharmacists, dietitians, lactation consultants, and a hospital chaplain. Most preemies will be visited with each staff member throughout their stay. Each level of care will differ with each staff member.
Levels of Neonatal ICU Care
Provides monitoring of stable conditions. Infant feeding, including breastfeeding, safe transfer to another level or hospital and emergency care.
In addition to Level I, Level II provides care for newborns with birth weights of 3 1/2 pounds (1500g) or greater, continuing care of relatively stable, low birth weight babies, short-term or transport ventilation support, care for mild to moderate respiratory distress syndrome, suspected neonatal sepsis, hypoglycemia, and mild to moderate post-resuscitation problems.
In addition to Level II, Level III is the most acute care. It provides care for severe respiratory distress syndrome, sepsis, severe post-resuscitation problems, significant congenital cardiac and other diseases, severe complications and critical care, assisted ventilation on short or long term basis, special consultations, surgery and recovery care and transport care as needed.
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