Neonatal Intensive Care Units, or NICUs, are classified into four levels by the American Academy of Pediatrics. A Level III NICU cares for the most premature newborns and very sick infants. This requires highly trained physicians called neonatologists, nurses and other staff who are expert in this type of care. Level III NICUs also use advanced technologies for services such as imaging, monitoring and respiratory support.
The Level III NICU at Community Medical Center is recognized throughout the region for its excellent approach to top-quality care. But more important, it’s touched the lives of thousands of families in Montana and Idaho since it opened in 1976. Parents regularly thank the NICU staff and physicians for the exemplary care given to their infants and also for the special attention given to their families.
A 22-bed unit, the NICU is run by a group of medical experts working as a team, providing a full range of care for infants born sick or premature. The unit is staffed with three neonatologists, a neonatal nurse practitioner and a veteran nursing staff, the majority of whom are specially certified in Neonatal Intensive Care. Other parts of the team are specially trained dietitians, pharmacists, respiratory therapists neonatal therapists, and a variety of pediatric subspecialty physicians including Pediatric Ophthalmology, Pediatric Surgery, and Pediatric Cardiology.
The NICU provides advanced technological care including conventional and oscillatory ventilation, nitric oxide therapy, and therapeutic hypothermia. Community is a member of the Vermont-Oxford Network, an international database for neonates with birth weights of less than 1,500 grams. The hospital often shares its morbidity and mortality statistics, as they are exceptional at both the state and national levels.
Along with its reputation for providing top-notch care, the NICU also prides itself on its more personal, “soft touch” approach to care. The NICU provides family-centered care with an emphasis on developmental care practices such as nesting and skin-to-skin contact, also called kangaroo care. The unit’s visitation policy encourages parents to be with their babies as much as possible, and rooming-in is provided for moms who are ready to take their growing premature babies home. CMC continues to care for families after an infant is discharged from the NICU, through the NICU Follow-up clinic, a specialty clinic that’s free to families. Also available to families are perinatal social workers and a bereavement program with an annual memorial service.
In the past, CMC has hosted an NICU reunion party for its graduates. Their joining in the celebration is a testament to the powerful impact the NICU has had on families.