When newborns need intensive medical care, they are admitted to a special area of a hospital called the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). The Level II NICU at the Eisenhower Family Birth Center, which opened in May of 2021, is special, indeed.
“It’s truly state-of-the-art,” says Jaime Tannenbaum, MD. Board Certified in Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine and Director of Eisenhower’s NICU, she helped to design the unit, drawing on her 25-plus years of experience as a Neonatologist at University of California, San Francisco Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland, where she also completed her pediatrics residency and neonatology fellowship (UCSF).
“In older units, you generally have to replace equipment as needed,” she says. “Here, everything is brand new and leading edge, and that’s unusual.”
Dr. Tannenbaum believes that one of the nicest features of Eisenhower’s NICU is that each of its eight rooms is a private room.
“I’ve always practiced in units that had an open bay where there was little privacy for families,” she says. “Here, families can spend time alone with their newborn, yet the newborn is fully monitored and connected to central monitoring at the nursing station. Mom can also sleep in the NICU room with the baby, allowing for additional bonding time.
“It’s a unique feature and one that’s very important,” she adds. She also notes that there’s a special double room that accommodates twins. A retractable wall between two private rooms can be opened so families can share one large room instead of two separate rooms. “It’s nice for families to not have to divide their time between their babies,” she says.
Another important aspect of NICU care at Eisenhower is that families are involved in daily rounds.
“Parents are included every day as the care team does morning rounds to discuss each patient’s care for the day and make a care plan for the next 24 hours,” says Dr. Tannenbaum.
And when mom is discharged from the hospital, but her new baby must stay in the NICU for a while longer, Eisenhower offers NICVIEWTM. This technology provides live-streaming video of hospitalized newborns to their families though a secure, password-protected system. The video stream can be viewed on any web-enabled device, so parents and other family members can continue to bond with their infant even when they can’t be at the baby’s bedside.
So, what does Eisenhower’s designation as a Level II NICU mean?
“NICUs typically are designated from Level I to IV,” Dr. Tannenbaum explains. “A Level I unit is essentially for well-babies who needs no additional medical assistance. As a Level II NICU, we can take care of preterm infants born as early as 32 weeks — two months early — and weighing as little as 1,500 grams, or 3.3 pounds. We’re equipped and staffed to provide short-term breathing support, intravenous fluids, antibiotics or phototherapy,” she adds, referring to a treatment for jaundice, a condition that affects about eight out of ten babies born prematurely.
Levels III and IV NICUs are designed and staffed to provide more advanced care for smaller, sicker newborns. Should a baby born at Eisenhower require this higher level of care, arrangements are in place to transfer the infant to another hospital.
Eisenhower’s NICU has seen a steadily growing volume of admissions during its first months of operation.
“While there’s no set timeline, our plan is to continue to develop our NICU to become a Level III unit so we can care for higher-acuity babies right here,” Dr. Tannenbaum notes. “The nurses and neonatologists we’ve hired are all trained for this higher level of care, so we’ve hired for the future.”