Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) —
Making a big difference in little lives.
When a child’s birth comes with medical challenges, poses potential risks, or happens prematurely, parents can rest assured that their baby will receive the special treatment needed at St. Bernards Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). The NICU is a unique area of the hospital with experienced staff that knows just how to care for babies.
St. Bernards Medical Center opened the region's first and only NICU in 2012. NICUs are designated by different levels (I through IV). These levels determine the complexity of care they can provide. The Arkansas Department of Health designated the NICU at St. Bernards as a level IIIA unit. This established that St. Bernards NICU and medical staff can safely provide continuous care to critically-ill term and preterm infants delivered as early as 26 weeks gestational age for as long as needed.
The NICU at St. Bernards has 16-beds and an experienced team that has provided care to more than 2,000 babies and their families. In some particular cases (like surgeries), babies need to be referred to a Level IV NICU (either Arkansas Children's or LeBonheur), for which our neonatologist will work with you to provide the best option.
The NICU Team
At St. Bernards, we strongly believe in a comprehensive approach. Our specially trained and experienced professionals provide a personalized approach for each baby while in the NICU. We believe that constant communication is a crucial factor in enhancing the care for each baby. Each baby's care team includes:
You, the parents: parents are a very important part of the care of the baby. Several scientific studies have demonstrated that parental involvement improves the neurodevelopmental progress of the baby. Reading, talking, and helping with the baby's care will help you both bond.
A neonatologist is: a medical doctor who trained as a pediatrician and finished three years of specialized training in neonatal care. They coordinate and decide your baby's daily care plan and are available 24 hours a day if a problem arises. Our neonatologists are Dr. Douglas Seglem, Dr. Enrique Gomez, and Dr. Audra Stewart.
Neonatal Nurse Practitioner: An experienced neonatal nurse who has completed a master's degree specializing in caring for sick and healthy infants in the NICU can provide resuscitation and do procedures as needed. They work hand in hand with the rest of the team to coordinate and provide care. Danielle Thorpe is our neonatal nurse practitioner.
Neonatal Nurses: they are registered nurses who have completed specialized training in the care of sick and healthy infants. Our nurses are also proficient in newborn resuscitation and breastfeeding support. They keep our neonatologists continuously informed of the care and status of your baby.
Neonatal Respiratory Therapist: RTs are trained to care for patients with respiratory problems. Our RTs are specially trained to work with infants to provide respiratory care to any baby needing extra support. Additionally, they are trained to perform endotracheal intubation and go on neonatal transports.
Our team does not stop with the above. It also comprises certified lactation nurses, patient care technicians, occupational therapists, dieticians, pharmacists, physical therapists, speech therapists, social workers/discharge planner to ensure you and your baby have the care needed.
Admission and Discharge from the NICU
We understand that it is difficult when a baby has to stay in the NICU. We strongly believe that parents need to be involved in the baby's care. A baby could be admitted to the NICU for any of these conditions:
- Born prematurely (less than 35 weeks gestation) or weigh less than 4 pounds
- Signs or symptoms of an infection
- Breathing problems
- Feeding problems
- Congenital disability
- Low blood sugar
- Any symptom that requires close monitoring, as determined by your obstetrician and the neonatologist
We also receive babies transferred from surrounding hospitals that need neonatal intensive care.
While your baby is in the NICU, we invite you to read to your baby as much as possible. Research has shown the benefits of maternal reading to preterm infants. Once your baby is stable, we encourage you to team up with our nurses to join in the baby's care by changing diapers, taking temperatures, and feeding your baby. We support Kangaroo Care (holding your baby skin-to-skin), and we will help you do it. We strongly encourage the use of breastmilk in the NICU, and our Lactation and Breastfeeding team will work with you to provide all the support needed.
Once the baby is stable, we start considering when the baby will be discharged home. We will start working together to provide you with training for when the baby is at home during the NICU stay. You will be provided written instructions and anything else you need at discharge.
In order for the baby to go home, the following signs are needed:
- No longer requires oxygen
- Takes all feedings by mouth
- Maintains his/her temperature in a regular crib
Once the discharge is approaching, our team will work with you to ensure you have all the information and training needed.
NICU Services and Programs
Available services at our NICU include:
- Continuous Mechanical Ventilation and High-Frequency Ventilation
- Total Parenteral Nutrition
- Pediatric Ophthalmology Evaluation
- Pediatric Echocardiography Services
- Pediatric Ultrasonography Services
- Radiologist Services
- Lactation Consultants
- Pediatric Pharmacy available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Outreach Program: Whenever requested, our NICU providers provide educational support to the hospitals surrounding Jonesboro. These programs include Neonatal Resuscitation Training, STABLE training, and classes for Family Medicine Residents, among others.
Vermont Oxford Network: The network is a non-profit voluntary association of over 1,300 NICUs worldwide with a shared goal of improving quality, safety, and value of care for newborn infants and their families. Our NICU collaborates with the network to track clinical practices and patient outcomes to advance better practices and identify opportunities for improvement of neonatal care.
Breastfeeding Program: At St. Bernards, we believe that breastfeeding is the most important component of neonatal care. When a baby is admitted to the NICU, our lactation team will work with you to get you started with breast pumping as soon as possible. We also provide Donor Breast Milk (pasteurized and thoroughly tested) for those babies who don't have access to breastmilk.
Frequently Asked Questions
What if I am delivering at another hospital?
If your baby requires intensive care, he or she can be transferred to St. Bernards Medical Center. You can ask your OB or the person taking care of your baby to contact us. Our transfer line is 870.207.7050
What is the average length of stay?
Depending on your baby's condition, it can be hours while others have stayed with us for up to 4 months. Once your baby is stable, and the discharge date is approaching, we will work to provide you with all the necessary training and information needed to take the baby home.
How often can I see my baby, and what is the visitation policy?
We encourage you to visit your baby as much as possible. A maximum of two visitors, including parents, are welcome to visit any time. Parents are always allowed to stay in the unit. There will be limited time for other visitors. Siblings ages 12 and older can visit with an adult.
We ask that you respect that anyone with a recent or current illness or symptoms of illness should not visit and will not be permitted to visit. Please call us at hospital extension 4392 or 870.207.4392 in preparation for a visit.
What kind of follow-up care will my baby need?
We arrange for all of our babies to follow up with a pediatrician of your preference. If your baby requires special care after discharge, the neonatologist and case managers will arrange appointments for you.
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