Eisenhower Family BirthPlace: What is a NICU and When Do You Need One

Featuring: Myesha Peters
Myesha Peters, RN, oversees the Eisenhower Family Birth Center's state-of-the-art NICU. In this episode she describes what a NICU is, its purpose, and what types of situations occur that require an infant to be placed in the NICU.


Myesha Peters, RN, MSN, manages the Eisenhower Birth Center NICU. She plans, organizes and directs the essential functions of the NICU and oversees its staff. Myesha is a registered nurse and earn a Master's of Science in Nursing Health Administration. She has over ten years of NICU experience.


Maggie McKay (Host): When you're expecting a baby, you want everything to go smoothly for your delivery. No parent wants their baby to be born with health issues, but the reality is there are babies who need a little extra help from the get-go. That's where the NICU department comes in. But what is it and when do you know when you need one? Let's find out from Myesha Peters, a NICU RN service group supervisor at Eisenhower Medical Center. This is Living Well with Eisenhower Health. I'm your host, Maggie McKay. Myesha, thank you so much for joining us today. Let's dive right in. What is NICU stand for and why does it exist?

Myesha Peters (Guest) : NICU stands for Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. This unit provides care to premature and term infants that are ill and or requires supplemental treatment or support to aid in their growth and development.

Maggie: And what exactly are the types of situations that require a baby to go to the NICU after birth?

Myesha Peters: There are many conditions that require admission to the NICU. However, here are a few that are commonly seen. Infants that are born less than 35 weeks gestational age or that weigh less than 2000 grams at birth will be admitted to the NICU if they're having respiratory issues. Or if they're hypoglycemic, which means their blood sugar is low. If babies need antibiotics or if they have difficulty feeding and even maintaining their body temperature. Those are just a few things that requires the baby to be admitted to the NICU.

Maggie: Is there an average time for a baby to spend in the NICU, or does it really just depend on the condition that you're treating?

Myesha Peters: The condition, gestational age, and many other factors determine the amount of time an infant will be in the NICU. However, an infant has to be able to maintain their temperature, be able to coordinate and tolerate feedings, and have a consistent weight gain in addition to meeting the criteria for discharge.

Maggie: And as far as the NICU is concerned, is this something that all hospitals have?

Myesha Peters: No, not all hospitals have a NICU. The advantage of a NICU is there is a specialized qualified team that attends the high risk delivery and is available to immediately stabilize and care for the infant if needed at birth. Also, if the patient needs to be admitted to the NICU, mom is available to visit the baby while she is hospitalized, and this also promotes bonding.

Maggie: And one of the things that I've heard about are different levels when it comes to the NICU. Can you speak about that a little bit?

Myesha Peters: Yes. Neonatal intensive care units have four levels. These levels determine the type of services that are provided to the infant. Your level one cares for the well. As for level four, they perform complex surgeries, specialize in all divisions in areas of care in relation to a newborn, and they provide specialized life sustaining procedures such as ecmo. Eisenhower has a level two NICU. We provide care to infants that are 32 weeks gestational age and greater weigh at least 1500 grams, which is about three pounds at birth. Require respiratory support for 24 hours or less, and also if they have other disorders that need to be treated, depending on the disorder of the infant will determine if they are transferred to a level three or a level four NICU that can provide a higher level of care.

Maggie: And I've heard that at Eisenhower Health, they've made this NICU state of the art, and there's a lot of advanced technology there. I'm curious as to how that actually helps for the best care of the baby?

Myesha Peters: Having a state-of-the-art NICU allows us to deliver safe, efficient, and evidence-based care to our patients while using the top recommended equipment designed for a NICU. For example, we have cameras that allow the parents or family to view the infant from their phone when they would like. This can reduce separation anxiety to parents who can't visit or be at the bedside with their baby 24/ 7.

Maggie: And who staffs the NICU itself? Do you have any specialists on hand that people should know about?

Myesha Peters: We do. Our NICU team is composed of neonatologists. Pediatric hospitalists. We have specially trained registered nurses, respiratory therapists. We have social workers, occupational therapists, lactation specialists, dieticians, and we also have cuddlers.

Maggie: I love cuddlers. Is that like a volunteer job?

Myesha Peters: Yes. And they are specially trained to work with the babies in our NICU.

Maggie: That is so sweet At the hospitals around where I live there's always like a waiting list because so many people wanna do it, which is great. One of the things that I wanted to touch on Myesha is, you mentioned it earlier a little bit, but the bonding experience that the mother has with the baby after they're born. For a healthy birth, I know that skin to skin and that immediate bonding time is so important for the baby that has to be rushed off, especially to the NICU. So how do you provide that same bonding experience with mother and baby when that baby's in the NICU being taken care of?

Myesha Peters: The NICU at Eisenhower has private rooms in which parents are encouraged to consistently be at the infant's bedside during their stay. The parents are educated on how to engage in skin to skin holding, and the importance of how this positively affects bonding and breastfeeding. We promote breastfeeding and provide support from our lactation specialists to assist with breastfeeding techniques and education. The NICU encourages family-centered care and allows parents to participate in the plan and care of their infants during their stay. Incorporating these dynamics promotes bonding and gives our families a positive experience that they can remember.

Maggie: So Myesha in closing, is there anything else you'd like to share with us about Eisenhower Family birthplace center?

Myesha Peters: Eisenhower is a wonderful place to work. The NICU, which is part of the family birth center, strives for excellence, excellence in the care we provide, the way we respect and engage with our patients and families, and how we treat each other. The collaboration, teamwork, and support is truly amazing.

Maggie: How reassuring to parents, I mean, it sounds like Eisenhower has every base covered when it comes to NICU. Thank you so much, Myesha. This has been so helpful and educational.

Myesha Peters: You're welcome.

Maggie: Once again, that's Myesha Peters, and if you'd like to find out more information, you can go to eisenhowerhealth.org/services/maternity/care/nicu N I C U. And if you found this podcast helpful, please share it on your social channels and check out the full podcast library for topics of interest to you. This is Living Well with Eisenhower Health Healthcare as it should be. I'm Maggie McKay. Thanks for listening.