Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Welcome to the NICU, let me show you around

Only occasionally do families of NICU babies have enough advance warning to get a tour of the unit where their precious child will spend the next few days, weeks, or months. The baby is often whisked out of the OR or birthing room before the parents get more than a glimpse and it may be up to 2 hours before the baby is stable enough for them to be permitted to visit.

Sometimes the mother is so sick that it is days before she can leave the birthing center or ICU herself. These can be some of the longest moments of a parent's life.

Babies generally start their stay in some kind of radiant warmer bed. If the NICU is well funded, it may be something like this one:

The bed pictured above has many features which make life easier for the NICU staff, for parents, but most importantly for the tiny infants who need those features to make their lives safer and more comfortable.

Starting at the top:

The bed has a radiant warmer component hidden in the clear shield at the top. It opens when the top is lifted and closes when it is closed. In the open position, the radiant warmer unit can provide enough heat to keep a tiny baby warm in an average-temperature room. The tiniest won't stay warm for long, even in this environment, because they lose heat as body fluids evaporate directly through the skin.

Fortunately, the top can be closed at the touch of a button to make a closed, humidified environment for the baby. Closing the hood shifts the bed to heating by gentle currents of warmed and (optionally) humidified air which are designed to form a barrier between the baby and the exterior.

A sensor probe is attached to the baby's abdomen, armpit, or occasionally side or back to let the bed know exactly how much heat to provide to maintain the baby's temperature.

Not all units have the option of a monitor attached to the ICU bed as this one does, but all babies requiring this type of bed will be monitored (to be discussed later).

Because NICU babies are weighed frequently, a scale has been built into the bed. This allows the baby to stay in his/her warm environment while being weighed. The bed can keep a log of weights and graph them.

The sides have portholes for use when the bed is in its closed position and the sides fold down to permit more access for delicate procedures when the bed is open-- or once the baby is more stable, to allow him/her to be removed without opening the top.

The unit can be lowered so that family members can sit beside the bed to visit or raised enough for the tallest staff member to work comfortably.

More on NICU equipment and admission procedures to come


Aidan's mom said...

My son was in one of these giraffes for most of his NICU stay. What amazing pieces of equipment! We were "lucky" enough to get a NICU tour while I was in the hospital on bedrest for 11 days. I am really glad we got a tour. It especially helped my husband to know what to expect since he was the first one to see my son (I was under general anesthesia). It made him less nervous watching the nurses and neo hooking all the monitoring equipment up to my son because he had already had it all explained.

Melissa Markham said...

What an awesome post! I worked with an early intervention program for 6 years back in the 90's. I think it is wonderful of you to post about what is in the NICU and make it less scary to parents. I hope lots of people read your informative posts!

Our Home Schooler and Jen said...

Melissa told me about your blog
and skimming through it I can see how interesting it is
Ill be back
blessings to you and yours

Dragonfly said...

That post is really helpful! Thanks....anything to help with the neonate and obgyn knowhow for my upcoming obstetrics rotation.

Helen said...

Is there much kangaroo care on your unit?

Judy said...

We encourage kangaroo care. It's good for babies and parents. I may even get around to a blog post on the subject eventually

Anonymous said...

Hi. You have an amazing blog here I was wondering where you got the picture of the isolette. I am doing an educational presentation for my graduate Occupational Therapy class on the NICU and would love to use that picture in the presention. I just need permission to use it due to copyright laws. please let me know! My email is Thanks!!

havilah said...

I work as a nursing tutor n im posted in NICU i take care of all these beauties ,im amazed to listen the word giraffe for the warmer ,im so happy to take care of them

Judy said...

It does seem an odd name for an ICU bed, doesn't it. I think the newest version of the Omnibed has a different name. I suppose it's because of the ability to raise the top quickly that must have reminded someone of a giraffe.