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The southeast Missouri region’s first Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) is located in Saint Francis Medical Center’s Family BirthPlace. The 18-bed Level III NICU is staffed by highly-trained, compassionate caregivers:

  • Board certified, fellowship-trained neonatologists
  • Neonatal nurse practitioners
  • Physical therapists
  • Registered nurses
  • Lactation consultants
  • Respiratory therapists
  • Social workers
  • Speech therapists
  • Occupational therapists
  • Discharge planners
  • Technicians
  • Massage therapists

The Level III NICU at Saint Francis Medical Center features:

  • Three board certified, fellowship-trained neonatologists supported by the area’s only full-time perinatology service and an expert staff of neonatal nurse practitioners, nurses, respiratory therapists, and other specialists trained to detect and avert problems associated with high-risk pregnancies and deliveries
  • 18 beds
  • Three types of neonatal ventilators for respiratory difficulties
  • Nitric oxide capabilities for persistent pulmonary hypertension
  • Preoperative and postoperative stabilization
  • Central nurses station to monitor the infants
  • Technology to reduce noise on the unit and electronically notify nurses of changes in a baby’s vital signs
  • Follow-up clinics
  • 24-hour neonatologist and neonatal nurse practitioner coverage
    • Neonatologists are board certified and fellowship-trained
    • Neonatal nurse practitioners (NNP) are nationally certified
  • 24-hour neonatal transport system by helicopter or ambulance with a neonatologist or NNP available to accompany
  • 24-hour coverage by a respiratory therapist with Level III NICU experience
  • Long-term nutritional support with total parenteral nutrition
  • Pediatric subspecialty consultation available for pediatric ophthalmology and neurology
  • Consultation available by telecommunication for pediatric echocardiography, genetics, radiology and infectious disease
  • Full-time, dedicated social worker for the Level III NICU and obstetric areas
  • Neonatal speech therapists with specialized training in infant feeding
  • Dedicated support staff in physical and occupational therapies
  • Certified lactation consultants
  • Bereavement committee
  • Developmental care specialists
  • Controlled access to unit is monitored by video cameras

Additionally, the Level III NICU offers access to the Family BirthPlace’s Family Room offering families comfortable furnishings, a TV, DVD entertainment, Internet access, shower facilities and lockers, and a kitchen with snacks and beverages.

Understanding the NICU & Your Baby

Vermont Oxford Network

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.

Emergency Transport to Saint Francis Medical Center

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.

Infant Care

An infant in the NICU

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.


To learn more about the Level III NICU at Saint Francis Medical Center, call 573-331-5830.

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