New neonatal intensive care unit elevates care for tiny newborns and families

April 24, 2024

A caregiver feeding one of our NICU patients.

In December, Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center unveiled its newly refurbished neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Located in our Women’s Pavilion, the new NICU elevates and reinforces the hospital’s commitment to providing the highest-quality care for premature and critically ill newborns. Construction of
the new space took five years, and during that time the NICU’s caregivers worked in temporary quarters, which reduced the unit’s capacity from 21 beds to 10. The new NICU restores the original capacity, which enables the hospital to better meet the needs of babies requiring specialized care. 

Carol Herndon, assistant nurse manager of pediatrics/NICU, highlighted the importance of this development: “The most exciting part of our reopening is we not only can meet the needs of babies who are born here, but additionally infants within the community and surrounding hospitals.”

Moving tiny patients from the temporary quarters to the new NICU required a carefully orchestrated process to ensure monitors and other equipment remained intact to protect the baby. To accommodate this, each baby was moved individually to their new “home” over the Christmas holidays. Darleen Vlahovic, director of women’s and children’s health, says, “A lot of planning went into that transition, with the entire team involved. There were a lot of meetings to prepare everybody, so when the actual day came for the move, it was fairly seamless.” She adds, “We appreciate the tremendous flexibility, teamwork and commitment our caregivers have shown our patients, community and each other over these last few years.”

The remodeled NICU is equipped with all new amenities, including advanced medical equipment and Giraffe OmniBeds. The beds create a temperature-controlled microenvironment and have other features designed specifically for the Michael Neveux Photograph needs of NICU babies. Additionally, a new isolette crib enables newborns to be transported safely from other facilities to Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana for specialized care. This special crib keeps babies warm during transfer, since they are unable to maintain body heat, and serves as a barrier to drafts and germs.

One of the standout features of the new NICU is its emphasis on creating a soothing environment for both babies and their families. The unit features soundproofing to reduce noise levels, calming color schemes and a new lighting system tailored to support infant development.

Sammantha Johnston and her son Hudson.

For parents like Sammantha Johnston, whose son Hudson was born prematurely, the NICU staff’s dedication and expertise have been a source of comfort during a challenging time. “The moment they walked into my C-section room, they were wonderful, and I felt comfortable with them,” Johnston says. “When it comes to the care of my baby, which is the most important thing, I fully trust them. They love him, they talk to him, and they’re just so sweet to him.”

Vlahovic proudly affirms that the staff and caregivers are very passionate and love what they do. “We are their community, and those are our babies,” she says. “Our caregivers take care of them as if they were their own.”

For baby Hudson, medical treatments have included oxygen, caffeine (for apnea), parenteral (IV) and nasogastric tube feeding and phototherapy to reduce jaundice. But the support in the NICU goes beyond medical care, encompassing emotional support, education and practical assistance, such as providing guidance on caring for a preemie.

“They’ve taken time to teach me how to feed him correctly as a preemie, how to give him massages, and how to swaddle him,” Johnston says. “And they’ve been there to wipe my tears when I cry, get me water and hug me.”

As a single mom who also has a nine year-old son named Wylie, Johnston says she doesn’t know how she’d make it through this journey without the NICU staff’s diligent support. “They make it possible for me to be a mom to not only my baby but also to Wylie,” she says. “It has been a roller coaster of emotions, but with the best support you could ask for as a mom.”

In addition to hands-on support, the new NICU has innovative solutions to keep parents connected with their babies, even when they’re unable to be physically present. This includes the innovative AngelEye Health CameraSystem™, which, when placed at the baby’s bedside, allows loved ones to livestream video of infants anywhere, anytime, on any device.

In addition, through a secure online portal, parents can watch over their little ones and receive updates from medical staff. This type of accessibility reduces stress and anxiety for parents, supports bonding with their child and facilitates better communication with caregivers.

When Johnston gets home from visiting the NICU, she and Wylie get on the portal to check on Hudson together, which brings them comfort and reassurance knowing they can be a part of his daily care and growth milestones, even from a distance.

The multidisciplinary team in the NICU provides specialized care for the infants’ various needs, from respiratory and physical therapy to nursing care at the bedside and social services. Weekly planning and discharge meetings are held for staff to discuss the plan of care for each baby, while 24-hour in-house neonatologists provide round-the-clock care for babies with complex medical needs.

With its new NICU, Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana aims to make a positive and meaningful difference in the lives of newborns and their families for years to come. 

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