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Neonatology Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

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A critcally ill newborn finds the right treatment options at Children's Mercy Kansas City.

Every day, we care for more than 80 fragile newborns in the region’s only top-level (Level IV) Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Newborns who are very small or sick or need surgery have the region’s best experts providing the highest level of care possible — working every day to help babies get stronger.

The importance of a Level IV NICU

The American Academy of Pediatrics has designated Children’s Mercy as a Level IV NICU. This is the highest designation available and means babies have access to a full range of more than 400 newborn medicine specialists, highly-trained pediatric nurses and anesthesiologists, and specialized equipment for our tiniest patients.

Children’s Mercy is the only hospital between St. Louis and Denver that can provide this level of care.

What to expect in the NICU

When you’re part of our NICU community, know that we’re going to take the very best care of you and your little one. Parents can stay with their babies anytime, and we encourage you to participate as much as you can in your baby’s care. You’re welcome to ask questions and give your input each morning during daily rounds, when your baby’s doctors and nurses discuss his care.

There’s a whole team of people here to help you, too. In addition to your medical providers and nurses, we have psychologists, social workers, Child Life specialists, lactation consultants, chaplains and a parent support program coordinator who are all part of your family’s care team.

Stay close, stay connected

You can stay close by to your baby and still find time and space to take care of yourself. We have a family break room in the NICU itself, the Ronald McDonald House (across the street) and Family Room (in the hospital), and discounted rates on local hotel rooms for families of Children’s Mercy patients. Your social worker can help you get connected with these resources.

For times when you need to be away from the hospital for an extended time, our TeleBear program uses videoconferencing technology to help you stay connected with your baby. Parents can also call at any time to get an update on their baby. You will need your personal passcode, and we will only give information to parents over the phone, not other family members.

Visitors

Visitors are welcome, with certain restrictions to protect the health and safety of babies in the NICU. Talk with your nurse or parent support coordinator for more information about visitors.

Your family’s care team

Nationally-ranked medical team

Your neonatologist will lead your baby’s care team— we have more than 25 neonatologists on staff. We have every type of pediatric subspecialist (doctors that treat baby’s heart, lungs, kidney, and more) your baby might need. They will contribute to your baby’s care plan. As a US News and World Report top hospital for neonatology, you know you’re getting the very best care available.

Nurses specially trained in caring for newborns

Our nurses and nurse practitioners are specially trained in neonatal care, so your baby is always in capable hands. Children’s Mercy is recognized as a Magnet organization by the American Nurses Credentialing Center, which means we provide superior quality in nursing care across the hospital.

Family support

The stress of having a child in the hospital can be overwhelming for parents. Children's Mercy psychologists and chaplains can help you talk about what you’re going through and find resources to cope.

Our social workers are available 24/7 to help families with navigating the logistics of a hospital stay. They will connect you with necessary resources while your baby is in the hospital, like lodging accommodations and transportation, and help make sure you’re ready when it’s time to go home.

Child Life specialists provide developmentally-appropriate play experiences for NICU babies and help them during procedures and transitions. They can also meet your older children before they come in to visit the baby for the first time and use age-appropriate teaching tools to help them feel comfortable. A playroom with kid-sized versions of an isolette is just outside the entrance to the NICU to allow siblings to become familiar with some of the things they’ll see in the NICU.

Our Parent Support Program Coordinator is a parent on staff who has personally experienced having a child in the NICU. She is available to all families in the NICU to provide help and support as someone who has been in a similar situation.  The parent support program coordinator also facilitates our March of Dimes program and organizes other programs for families in the NICU.

Volunteers

The Parents Offering Parents Support program (POPS) is made up of volunteer families that are mentors who have been through Children’s Mercy. They can offer advice, answer questions and share their experience with you.  Find out more about our POPS to get connected with a mentor parent who has been through similar circumstances. 

We have a special group of baby holder volunteers that are specific to the NICU. These carefully screened and trained volunteers are available to hold and interact with babies while parents have to be away.  

Breastfeeding support for nursing NICU moms

Nursing moms can use our quiet, private lactation room for pumping. Our lactation consultants are happy to help with any questions or concerns related to breastfeeding or pumping. The Milk Room, where all breastmilk is safely stored and processed, is located right next to the NICU. You can also pick up meal vouchers there to support your nutrition while you’re pumping to feed your baby.

Family-centered care

You know your baby best. That’s why we practice family-centered care throughout our hospital. Parents and family members are always active participants in discussing, planning and providing care for their child. Parents are never considered visitors in the NICU—they are part of the care team. You’re welcome to be with your baby as much as you like.

Going home

Whether your stay in the NICU is a few days or many months, our goal is to send you home feeling confident in your ability to care for your baby. Transition rooms are hotel-like rooms located right on the unit for you to practice taking care of your baby independently, while still remaining just steps away from help if you need it.

Additional resources:

What is a Level IV NICU?

The American Academy of Pediatrics classifies hospital nurseries based on their ability to care for babies with different levels of medical needs. This information (adapted from the March of Dimes) can help you understand the different levels of care.

Level I, Well Newborn Nursery—Cares for healthy babies born at or after 35 weeks. Partners with other local or regional facilities to transport newborns who are sick or born before 35 weeks.

Level II, Special Care Nursery—Cares for babies born at or after 32 weeks who weigh more than 1,500 grams (3.3 pounds) and have less serious health problems, or who no longer require intensive care but need a little more time to heal and grow before going home.

Level III, NICU—An intensive care unit made for babies who are born before 32 weeks or weigh less than 1,500 grams, babies of any age or weight who are critically ill, and babies who need equipment to help them breathe. These hospitals have specially trained doctors and nurses as well as equipment designed to care for very sick babies.

Level IV, Regional NICU—This is the highest level of care for babies. Children’s Mercy is the only Level IV NICU within a 200-mile radius, providing specialized services for babies who need surgery or highly advanced medical care. Every type of pediatric subspecialist (doctors who treat a certain system, like baby’s heart, lungs or kidneys) is available on-site and will work as a team to help your baby.

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