The Spratt Family Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Fosters Family Bonding
Danbury Hospital’s tiniest and most fragile patients have a new place to call home at The Spratt Family Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
Private rooms for each newborn equipped with amenities for parents who wish to stay overnight with their babies are among the state-of-the-art features of the new $8 million Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Danbury Hospital.
The 19,000-square-foot NICU – which nearly quadruples the size of the former unit – includes individual patient rooms that can accommodate 19 newborns, including rooms specially designed for twins and triplets to keep the family together.
“I can’t tell you how excited we are about this,” said Edward James, MD, who has served as medical director of Danbury Hospital’s NICU for 16 years. “This new facility ensures that we continue to provide the highest level of care to our tiniest and most vulnerable patients, while at the same time making it easier to involve parents in every aspect of their baby’s care,” said Dr. James. “Studies show that babies who are visited frequently by their parents actually spend less time in the hospital. They progress more quickly and do better in the long-term.”
The best in neonatal care
The opening of the new NICU represents the latest move by Danbury Hospital to strengthen its continuum of pediatric and mother-baby services.
As the region’s only Level IIIB NICU, Danbury Hospital treats critically ill infants and premature babies born as early as 23 weeks. The NICU admits close to 400 patients a year, including about 11% percent of all babies born at Danbury Hospital, plus newborns transferred from New Milford Hospital and other centers. The multidisciplinary team includes neonatologists, specially trained neonatal nurses, respiratory care therapists, advanced practice nurses, physician assistants, social workers, pharmacists and pediatric specialists, as needed.
The modern NICU is equipped with the latest technology, including 10 Giraffe OmniBeds, which provides the optimal microenvironment to help babies thrive during the first critical days and weeks of life. Services include high frequency oscillatory ventilation, nitric oxide therapy, surfactant therapy and percutaneous central venous line placement.
“We’re using the latest technology to make sure the NICU is a safe place to care for babies,” added Dr. James. Multiple systems are in place to alert staff of a baby’s changing health status. Nine decentralized nursing stations enable staff to stay close to newborns and monitor their progress from multiple sites in the unit.
Soothing family-friendly quarters
The NICU’s soothing décor features earth tones in the waiting room and cool shades of green and blue in the patient care area. The expansive use of glass creates an open, airy space. Pictures of NICU graduates adorn the corridor leading to the NICU. A garden accessible only from the NICU is also underway.
“We wanted to create an upbeat feeling,” said Maryalice Cullen, MSN, RNC, the unit’s nurse manager. “We know parents don’t expect their babies to be in the NICU. It can be a scary experience.”
The new design fosters family bonding by incorporating dedicated family space and amenities within each patient care room, including a sofa bed and wireless Internet access to accommodate parents who want to stay at the NICU. Single patient rooms are 250-square-feet. Two full bathrooms with showers are located in the family corridor for parents to use when they stay over.
“The larger space gives parents more privacy and staff more room to move around,” said Dr. James. “Parents don’t need to travel back and forth between their home and the hospital which can add to the stress they already feel.”
The benefits of keeping the family unit intact during a NICU stay are plentiful. “Studies have shown phenomenal results just from having a mom speaking softly to her baby while her finger is in the isolette,” said Cullen. “The baby’s oxygen level goes up, the heart rate goes down and the baby becomes more relaxed. It’s incredible. We don’t give Mother Nature enough credit.”
The increased privacy also facilitates breastfeeding because moms can stay close to their babies. “Each room has a breast pump which can help women establish a good milk supply while their baby is in the NICU,” said Cullen. “We also have lactation consultants who can assist, if needed.” Women who give birth at Danbury Hospital have among the highest breastfeeding rates in Connecticut.
Emotional support during trying times
At Danbury Hospital, tending to the emotional needs of families is just as important as providing medical care to newborns. The new facility includes a parent respite center where family members can escape to deal with the emotional ups and downs they will face while their baby is treated at the NICU.
“NICU nurses take care of the entire family, not just the newborn,” said Cullen. “We are the baby’s first home so families and nurses become very close. We work hard to make sure families feel comfortable and well prepared to take their babies home. We are here to support them emotionally with that transition.”
With the opening of the NICU comes an intense sense of pride among the hospital staff who helped design the unit with input from former NICU families. “It means a lot to all of us to be able to leave this legacy behind,” said Cullen. “It’s been a real family affair.”
About Western Connecticut Health Network
Western Connecticut Health Network is a patient-centered health care organization established in 2010 by two nationally recognized hospitals, Danbury Hospital, New Milford Hospital and their affiliated organizations, to provide the highest level of care to patients throughout Western Connecticut and adjacent New York. In addition to the two hospitals, other network affiliates include:
- an integrated physician practice with primary and specialty care expertise
- an agency for home care and community health services
- a full-service retail pharmacy located at Danbury Hospital
- emergency medical services
- an occupational wellness and medicine program, providing services for business and industry
Western Connecticut Health Network has centers of excellence in Women’s, neonatal, cardiovascular and cancer services; weight loss and orthopedic surgery; digestive disorders and radiology and diagnostic imaging. It also offers specialized programs for sleep disorders and asthma management. Both hospitals also maintain active clinical research programs, offering clinical trials for patients with cancer and other health concerns.
For more information, visit WesternConnecticutHealthNetwork.org
About Danbury Hospital
Danbury Hospital is a 371-bed regional medical center and university teaching hospital associated with the University of Vermont College of Medicine, the Yale University School of Medicine, the Connecticut School of Medicine and Columbia University Medical Center. The hospital is nationally recognized as a tertiary health care center with an innovative high-tech, high-touch environment and is also a member of the Planetree organization. In addition to offering the latest robotic and minimally invasive surgical and imaging technology, it was the first hospital in Connecticut to adopt electronic health records systems.
It offers a Level II Trauma Center and Level IIIb Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Medical staff members are board-certified in their specialties, and most serve as faculty members of the nation’s finest university medical centers offering a higher level of experience.
For more information, visit DanburyHospital.org and share your comments with us at Facebook.com/DanburyHospital.
About New Milford Hospital
New Milford Hospital, is a Planetree organization dedicated to patient-centered care that nurtures every patient's body, mind and spirit. The Hospital has an extraordinary tradition of warm and caring personal attention backed by top-notch physicians, world-class technology and the newest, most advanced diagnostic and treatment options available. Your healthcare team of highly trained physicians, nurses, technicians and administrators is determined and committed to improving the health and quality of life of those we serve.
For more information, visit NewMilfordHospital.org and share your comments with us Facebook.com/NewMilfordHospital.