NICU

NICU at Centinela Medical Center

The neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Centinela Hospital provides care to premature babies and other critically ill infants. When your baby needs to be in the NICU, it can be an overwhelming experience. Very quickly, the excitement you feel about the birth of your new baby can change to fear about what lies ahead. However, knowing what to expect can help balance these feelings and take away some of the fear.

Babies who need to go to the NICU are often admitted within the first 24 hours after birth. Babies may be sent to the NICU if:

  • They're born prematurely
  • There were difficulties during their delivery
  • They show signs of a problem in the first few days of life

Only very young babies or babies with a condition linked to being born prematurely are treated in the NICU. They're usually infants who haven't gone home from the hospital yet after being born. How long they'll remain in the unit depends on the severity of their illness.

We hope that this information, along with the advice of your baby's caregivers, will help answer the many questions you may have about the care and services provided in a NICU.

Who Will Be Taking Care of My Baby?

Your baby will be cared for by a team of skilled staff members. However, it may be difficult at first to figure out who everyone is and the role they play in your newborn's care. The following information describes some of your baby's most common caregivers.

Doctors

  • neonatologist: A doctor specializing in newborn intensive care who heads up the medical team.
  • specialists: Such as a neurologist, a cardiologist, or a surgeon to treat specific issues with the brain, heart, etc.

The nurses you might interact with include

  • charge nurse: responsible for coordinating work assignments for staff nurses and helping solve patient care and other problems.
  • registered nurse: Often referred to as, staff nurses, are the caregivers you interact with most during your baby's stay in the NICU. They perform and coordinate the many tasks of caring for your baby. Staff nurses closely monitor your baby's progress, and usually have the most recent information about your baby's care. They're also a big help in showing you how to care for your baby.

Other clinical team members

  • respiratory therapist: Works with infants with breathing problems and manages the equipment that helps your baby breathe.
  • dietitian: A healthcare professional with special knowledge about
  • the nutrients needed for an infant's proper growth and development.
  • physical / occupational therapist: Helps your baby with movement, feeding, and other developmental issues that your baby may have.
  • pharmacist: Provides and manages your baby's medications.
  • case manager: Works with you to develop a plan to take your baby home. They can also help with your insurance.
  • clergy: Representatives from various faiths who can support you during this time.

The NICU Routine

Once settled in the unit, your baby will receive care tailored to their specific needs. Most NICU babies are on special feeding schedules, depending on their level of development or any problems they have. Nurses and other care providers record information as often as every five minutes. Most NICU nurses work 12-hour shifts. During shift changes, nurses give a report about your baby to the next nurse coming on duty. There are also daily rounds during which members of your child's care team discuss your baby's condition and record information in your baby's chart. Your baby will be frequently fed, weighed, bathed, and given developmental therapy based on their condition and how well they are tolerating stimulation. Some infants are too premature or too sick to eat on their own, so they have a feeding tube that runs through the mouth and into the stomach. Others need high-calorie diets to help them grow.

Visiting Your Baby

The NICU has a visiting policy in place to help protect your baby from unnecessary exposure to germs and infections and to enable the best possible care for both your baby and your family. Your baby's caregivers will explain the visiting policy of the specific NICU caring for your baby.

As a parent, you can usually visit your baby anytime, night or day. However, there may be times when you will be asked to leave your baby's bedside to protect the privacy of patients and families. This usually is the case during the nurse's shift change. Parents are encouraged to visit with their baby as much as possible to encourage interaction and bonding.

What You Will See in the NICU

Your baby will be closely monitored throughout their stay in the NICU. This means they may be connected to wires, tubes, patches, probes, and machines. It can be difficult to watch your little one being poked and prodded and hooked up to machines. Your nurses can explain what all of the monitors, tubes, tests, and machines do. Here's a brief look at what some of the unfamiliar equipment does and how it may help your baby.

  • feeding tubes: Often, NICU babies cannot get as many calories as they need through regular feeding from a bottle, so your nurses will use a small feeding tube to deliver formula or breast milk (that the mother pumps). The tube is placed into the baby's stomach through the mouth or through the nose.
  • IVs and lines: An intravenous catheter (or IV) is a thin flexible tube inserted into the vein with a small needle. Once in the vein, the needle is removed, leaving just the soft plastic tubing. Almost all babies in the NICU have an IV for fluids and medications. This is usually placed in the hands or arms, but sometimes in the feet, legs, or even scalp.
  • monitors: Infants in the NICU are attached to monitors so staff are
  • constantly aware of their vital signs. The nurses will often place the
  • infants in positions that seem the most soothing, like on their tummies or on their sides.
  • phototherapy: Often, premature infants or those with infections also have jaundice (a common newborn condition in which the skin and whites of the eyes turn yellow). Phototherapy is used to help get rid of the bilirubin that causes jaundice. The infants might lie on a special light therapy blanket and have lights attached to their beds or isolettes. Usually, they only need phototherapy for a few days.
  • ventilators: Babies in the NICU sometimes need extra help to breathe. An infant is then connected to the ventilator (or breathing machine) via an endotracheal tube (a plastic tube placed into the windpipe through the mouth or nose).