Neonatal Intensive Care
Neonatal Intensive Care
Serious Care for the Smallest and Sickest Babies
Expectant parents hope their babies will be born healthy. Yet, sometimes newborns need to be hospitalized. When this happens, they are cared for in our neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) by a compassionate team of neonatologists (doctors for sick and premature newborns), neonatal-perinatal medicine fellows, neonatal advanced practice providers, pediatric residents, bedside neonatal nurses, and other neonatal health professionals.Members of our integrated Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine service at Penn State Children’s Hospital develop specialized individualized treatment plans for every ill baby in our care. Babies are admitted to our NICU because they were born too early (up to 17 weeks before their due date), have lung or heart problems, need surgical intervention for birth defects, require consultative care from our pediatric subspecialists, or have other life-threatening conditions.
Penn State Children’s Hospital NICU
The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, which first opened in January 1972, has beds for 42 neonates and infants. There are approximately 600 admissions each year, with one-third admitted from outside hospitals. The NICU is located on the 7th floor of the Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. NICU doctors and advanced practice providers are on faculty at the Penn State College of Medicine at the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, the only academic medical center in central Pennsylvania.
As a Level IV NICU (the highest level NICU according to the American Academy of Pediatrics), and the only one between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, our team provides complete and comprehensive, lifesaving care to the most complex and critically-ill newborns. We use all forms of invasive and non-invasive respiratory support and perform all advanced radiological procedures and cardiac imaging on an emergency basis. In addition to 24/7 in-hospital coverage by board-certified and board-eligible neonatologists, our hospital has all pediatric subspecialists and pediatric surgeons available 24 hours a day. We have the capability for surgical repair of all complex conditions, including congenital heart malformations. Pediatric surgeons are also continuously available to place sick infants with severe respiratory failure on extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), a form of cardio-respiratory bypass that is life-saving when other treatments are not effective.
At Penn State Children’s Hospital, we have an active transport team that brings sick infants who are unable to be fully cared for in community hospitals to our NICU at all times of the day and night for specialized care. Additionally, we provide outreach education and training to nearby hospitals. We have a dedicated team for resuscitating the smallest and sickest babies born at Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and are also in the process of developing a Small Baby Unit for the coordinated and consistent care of periviable newborns born at 23 to 26 weeks’ gestation (14 to 17 weeks before their due date).
New NICU to open fall 2020
The new 56-bed NICU, which is slated to open fall 2020, is being built on top of the current 5-story Children’s Hospital. The NICU will occupy the entire 8th floor (top floor) and Labor and Delivery will move to the 7th floor.
The NICU will use a “hybrid room model” - a mix of private rooms (for singletons, twins, and triplets) and three six-bedded rooms. Very premature infants will initially be admitted into quiet, private rooms to limit stimulation that can be overwhelming to a premature infant. However, once medically stable and off ventilators, these infants will be moved to one of the 6-bedded rooms, where they will experience sufficient human voice. Scientific evidence shows that the most premature infants - who often spend a long time at the hospital even when parents must return to work or have other child care responsibilities - can experience significant developmental delays in the absence of regular exposure to human voice. The hybrid room model assures that these newborns will have improved neurodevelopmental outcomes. All rooms will allow families the ability to room-in with their infant, where they will be actively engaged in the care of their baby and grow comfortable with the specialized care their newborn needs.