Care at Children's

As a regional referral center, we’re one of the few NICUs in the area that provides a full range of surgical services, including 24-hour surgical ability on the premises. We care for nearly 500 babies per year.

Often, our patients have been born prematurely and require care for related health problems. We also treat babies born at full term who have conditions such as:

  • Congenital heart disease
  • Infections, such as pneumonia or sepsis
  • Asphyxia
  • Respiratory distress
  • Pulmonary hypertension

Technologies

We pride ourselves on being at the forefront of technology as it relates to the care of newborn infants. We are home to the only extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) center in the region. This heart and lung support system acts as an “artificial lung” to oxygenate the blood, allowing the patient’s lungs to rest and heal.

Our NICU is also equipped with neurally adjusted ventilatory assist (NAVA), which uses the electrical signals generated by the patient’s diaphragm to control ventilation.

Other advanced technologies in the Children’s Hospital NICU include:

  • Therapeutic hypothermia, a treatment that may help reduce the risk of brain injury in babies who’ve been deprived of oxygen
  • High-frequency ventilation for babies with severe respiratory failure 
  • Sophisticated brain assessment through continuous EEG monitoring
  • Nitric oxide for premature babies with pulmonary hypertension

Babies with congenital heart defects have access to the Penn State Children's Heart Group, a regional center of excellence in the care of children with heart disease.

Care team

Our family-centered approach to care includes a team that holistically supports patients and their families, including:

  • Social workers, care coordinators, and chaplains who provide psychosocial support and guidance
  • Physical therapists and occupational therapist who help with babies’ developmental needs
  • Speech therapists who handle feeding problems
  • Restorative therapists who help manage the ventilators
  • Clinical pharmacists, including a doctor of pharmacy who specializes in pediatrics and neonatology
  • A nutritionist who specializes in the nutritional needs of infants

Follow-up clinic

At the Children’s Hospital, care continues well after our patients leave the NICU. We’re one of the few programs in the region with a follow-up clinic, which tracks the developmental and medical progress of former high-risk patients. Specialty care is coordinated with other physicians at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

Quality and safety

We have a steadfast commitment to improvement, quality, and safety in the NICU. As a member of several national, multi-center organizations focused on safety, we’re involved with ongoing initiatives to improve patient outcomes. We’re part of the Vermont Oxford Network, a collaboration of NICUs around the world with the shared goal of improving outcomes for sick newborns.

Departments

Neonatal care involves multidisciplinary care from many pediatric subspecialty services and pediatric surgical services, including:

Groups, Classes & Support

NICU Parent Support Program

The NICU Parent Support Program provides support to families with children with special needs.

Penn State Children’s Hospital, working with Parent to Parent of Pennsylvania, connects families who currently have a baby in the NICU with other families who previously have had a baby in the NICU.

When you have a baby in the NICU, it is difficult and overwhelming. Having someone who has been through similar circumstances can help.

All NICU Parent Supporters have received extensive training on a variety of topics, including how to be a great mentor. They stand by to support new parents through this challenging time.

If you are interested in being matched to a NICU Parent Supporter, call Parent to Parent of PA at 888-727-2706. When you call, a regional coordinator asks you questions about your baby and family needs. Based upon this information, the coordinator determines which NICU Parent Supporter would be most helpful to you. You should expect a call within forty-eight hours. It’s that simple. Together, you and the NICU Parent Supporter will determine future contacts. Each match is unique, and the number of contacts preferred by one caller may be different than that preferred by another caller. Sometimes, lifelong friendships develop.

Research & Clinical Trials

Our Children’s Hospital partners with Penn State University and industry leaders to develop technology for newborn care, such as improving ventilation in the NICU. We leverage resources in the entire university, bringing together clinicians, engineers, and business faculty to create innovative medical devices and equipment. Learn more about the Pediatric Innovation Program.

We participate in clinical trials on a continuous basis with the goal of improving neonatal care, and we present our work at national meetings every year. For more information about clinical trials, visit the Clinical Trials Office website.

We can help

If you have a question or want to contact the NICU, call us at

717-531-8941