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More Room for More Love

  • Author: More Room More Love
  • Date Submitted: Jun 18, 2019
  • Category: Team Stories

Just like the tiny babies who thrive there, Kaweah Health’s new NICU is growing and is ready to make its grand debut.

Big changes are in store for Kaweah Health’s tiniest patients. Babies born too soon, too small, or with other health problems will soon be cared for in the medical center’s newly completed state-of-the-art Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Construction on the 15,000 square foot expansion project located on the sixth floor of the Acequia Wing began in 2017. The new addition will make its grand debut in the summer of 2019.

With evidence-based research at the heart of the design, the new innovative facility is five times larger than Kaweah Health’s current NICU and will provide critically-ill infants and their families with the optimal environment for a baby’s development until they gain the strength to thrive at home. “Our goal is to support the care of the entire family, not just the infant,” said NICU Nurse Manager Felicia Vaughn. “The new NICU will help us focus on family-centered care.”

Having a NICU baby can be stressful. Older NICUs, like Kaweah Health’s current facility, were constructed with open-bay floor plans with baby beds situated close together. This often resulted in a crowded, loud, and generally stressful environment. The expanded NICU will be a much more calming place for parents, providing them with more room, privacy, and quiet time to spend with their little ones. The 23-bed unit includes all single-family rooms designed to enhance individualized care and invite more participation from parents, who will have 24-hour access to their sick infants. “We know babies do better when their parents are involved,” shared Vaughn. “The more parents participate in their baby’s care, the sooner their baby can go home.”

Each room features large windows, soft lighting, personal refrigerators for mother’s milk or formula, and a sofa bed. Private rooms provide a more comfortable and inviting space for families to spend at their little one’s bedside and help deliver family-centered care that is critical for nurturing newborns. In addition to the comfort, Kaweah Health’s NICU medical staff is also looking forward to a more spacious environment to care for their tiny patients. Amenities for providers and staff include a classroom for nurse trainings and parent conferences, a medication room, two designated supply areas, one large nurse station, and 12 smaller, decentralized stations providing nurses with a direct line of view to their tiny patients.

Keeping families together and babies close to home is top priority, and the expanded Level III NICU will help Kaweah Health do just that. Thanks to successful partnerships with Valley Children’s Medical Group and First 5 of Tulare County, the NICU will continue to be staffed by neonatologists and neonatal nurse practitioners, allowing 24-hour, on-site coverage with access to the best medical care available. If a mom wakes up in the middle of the night and wants to hold her baby, staff will be right there to help make it happen. This kind of access promotes healing and forges bonds that contribute to newborn development and enable babies to make it home sooner.

“Everyone in the NICU unit can see that our care capability is increasing,” Vaughn said. “We’re caring for smaller, sicker babies and keeping our commitment to the community by keeping them close to home.”