The region's first Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) is located in Saint Francis Medical Center's Family BirthPlace. The 20-bed Level III NICU is staffed by highly trained compassionate caregivers who include board certified, fellowship-trained neonatologists; neonatal nurse practitioners; physical therapists; registered nurses; lactation consultants; respiratory therapists; social workers; speech therapists; occupational therapists; technicians; and massage therapists. A specially trained neonatal transport team is available by helicopter or ambulance to move critically ill infants to Saint Francis from other regional hospitals 24/7.
To continually maintain the highest quality of patient care, the Level III NICU at Saint Francis voluntarily participates in the Vermont Oxford Network (VON), an international consortium of Level II and Level III NICUs that benchmarks outcomes and shares data on the quality of neonatal care worldwide. Saint Francis' Level III NICU consistently ranks among the top 25 percent of the 500+ VON NICU participants.
Additionally, the Level III NICU offers access to the Family BirthPlace's Family Room, a 500-square-foot suite, offering families comfortable furnishings, a TV, DVD entertainment, Internet access, shower facilities and lockers, and a kitchen with snacks and beverages.
Providing an unprecedented level of care, the state-of-the-art Level III NICU treats premature infants and term newborns with infections, birth defects, breathing difficulties, growth restriction and maternal health problems. Care is provided for infants of the following ages:
37 to 42 weeks
A full-term pregnancy lasts 37 to 42 weeks. Some infants born during this time need intensive care for problems related to infection, pneumonia, feeding difficulties and/or birth defects. Other full-term infants may need intensive care because of maternal diabetes or problems that may have occurred during labor and/or delivery.
34 to 36 weeks
Infants born 4 to 6 weeks early typically weigh between 4 and 7 pounds. Many of these infants experience little difficulty after birth while others may have significant problems with maintaining normal blood sugar levels or learning how to eat. Some of these infants require oxygen for a few days by oxygen hood or nasal cannula. Others may require a breathing machine. Premature infants often need an incubator to help maintain their body heat to conserve energy.
30 to 33 weeks
Infants between 30 and 33 weeks gestational age are born 7 to 10 weeks early. Infants born at this time weigh an average of 2 1/2 to 4 pounds and need monitoring in an intensive care environment. Often, these infants need some help breathing, which may be in the form of a breathing machine (ventilator), continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) or oxygen by nasal cannula. Infants born at this time need a tiny feeding tube inserted in their nose or mouth to help them receive nutrition until they are mature enough for breast-feedings.
27 to 29 weeks
Infants born at this gestation weigh an average of 2 to 4 pounds. Their skin is thin and there is minimal fat. Infants born 10 to 13 weeks early may need ventilator support and may receive artificial surfactant to help their lungs mature more quickly. Intravenous nutrition is important for several weeks as these infants gradually adjust to increasing volumes of breast milk or formula through tube feedings. It is often a month or more before these infants are mature enough to try breast-feedings or bottle-feedings.
23 to 26 weeks
Infants born at this gestation weigh an average of 1 1/2 to 2 pounds or less and need significant support at the time of delivery because all their organs are very immature. The skin is very thin and can be bruised easily. Lungs are not developed at this age. At birth, the baby may have a weak but audible cry and poor respiratory effort requiring the immediate insertion of a breathing tube and support with a ventilator. These infants benefit greatly from an artificial form of surfactant, a medicine given directly into the lungs through a breathing tube. This helps prevent the fragile air sacs from collapsing.
Meet the Physicians
Laura Al-Sayed, MD
Alan Barnette, MD
Karlyle Christian-Ritter, MD