The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Vermont Children’s Hospital
The NICU at Vermont Children’s Hospital at Fletcher Allen is a 29-bed Level III nursery that cares for infants and their families across all of Vermont and upstate New York. Our unit provides critical care to some of the tiniest pre-term infants, some as young as 23 weeks gestation and weighing as little as 495 grams (about 1 pound). Full-term and larger infants also are admitted to the NICU if they are born ill or require extra care or treatment after birth.
Our highly specialized group of nurses, physicians, social workers and respiratory therapists receive training designed specifically to provide care to the pre-term as well as term infants and their families who may be suffering from respiratory, neurological, renal, cardiac, surgical or other health related conditions. We value our ability to work as a team and consider the care we give extremely collaborative. An important part of our care team is the family. Some of our infants and families are with us for months. Parents are included in daily rounds and are an integral part of the planning that goes into each infant’s daily care plan.
We also encourage our parents to hold their infants as soon as possible and encourage what is known as “skin to skin” or “Kangaroo Care”. This is where either Mom or Dad holds their infant against their bare chest and utilizes their own body heat to keep their infant warm, while at the same time soothing, comforting and really having an opportunity to bond with their baby. We believe in the importance of early physical contact for our infants and therefore are very skilled at transferring infants from their bed to their parent’s chest – even with infants who may have multiple supports attached to them such as an endotracheal or “breathing tube” or other respiratory support, IV lines, or a feeding tube. Studies have shown that this closeness helps not only the baby become more physiologically stable and encourages brain growth, but helps the breast milk supply of moms who are breast feeding.
Even though we live in the rural state of Vermont, our NICU is proud to be on the cutting edge of some of the best Neonatal care in the country. VON (Vermont Oxford Network) is a non profit collaborative group which originated in Vermont in 1988 and is made up of over 800 Neonatal ICU’s worldwide. The mission of VON is to improve the quality and safety of medical care for newborn infants and their families through a coordinated program of research, education and quality improvement projects. Through the work of VON, our own Neonatologists and participating medical staff have shared multiple best practices that have now been adopted as standards for care in Neonatal Units throughout the country and even the world. These include but are not limited to feeding protocols to maximize nutrition, oxygen saturation targeting in an effort to reduce retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) which can lead to blindness, as well as Family Centered Care initiatives and inclusion of the family in almost every part of our plan of care.
We are all proud of our staff and unit and look forward to finding ways everyday to improve the lives of our small patients and their families.
NICU Grad Party
Each year we invite NICU “graduates” (up to 8 years of age) and their families to attend a party at Shelburne Farms in their honor. This annual event provides an opportunity for all our staff and NICU families to reconnect over food, fun and games. This year, we’ll be taking photos and sharing family stories via Facebook – we invite you to check back in over the next few weeks to learn more.
Barbara Henle is the Assistant Nurse Manager in our NICU.