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Published on September 23, 2015

Avera McKennan Celebrates Opening of State-of-the-Art NICU

SIOUX FALLS (Sept. 23, 2015) – Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center celebrates the grand opening of its new Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) on the fourth floor of the main hospital.

NICU care is specialized care for newborns who are born premature, or with health issues that need greater attention than what is offered in the newborn nursery. Avera McKennan’s NICU meets American Academy of Pediatrics criteria as a Level IIIB NICU.

The $7 million specialized unit is 16,500 square feet in size. Its new design features all private rooms for patients and their families. Each patient room has frosted glass doors that allow families to have their own space, yet be within view of doctors, nurses and other care staff. The new unit brings together two NICU areas that are currently on third and fourth floors, and replaces the current third-floor unit that is 4,000 square feet. The current fourth floor unit will be kept as overflow space.

“Based on site visits and focus groups, we designed our unit so that parents can be more involved in their baby’s care in intimate space from the very beginning. There is privacy for each family, yet still a sense of cohesiveness and support from other NICU families,” said Courtney Ehlers, Director of Women’s and Children’s Services at Avera McKennan.

The 31 rooms of the unit are grouped by color in three neighborhoods, both for staff efficiency and a sense of community. Two rooms are specially equipped for twins, and one room for triplets, bringing the total capacity of the unit to 35 babies. Decentralized nurse stations in each neighborhood allow nurses to stay in immediate contact with patients and families.

The new unit will incorporate the latest technology available for NICU babies. This includes Giraffe OmniBeds in every room, which provide an optimal environment in terms of temperature and humidity.

Other technology includes an enhanced monitoring system for nurses and doctors, a new call system in which care staff receive alerts on their phones in case of monitor alarms or the push of a call button, and an advanced visitor ID system with photo badges for patient and family safety in the unit.

Rooms are furnished with pull-out couches so parents can spend the night, with TVs in each room, both for entertainment and parent education. Family bathrooms with showers, a family lounge, group education space and laundry facilities are also located on the unit.

An Innovation project prior to construction based on Lean principles enhanced staff efficiency, so nurses can spend more time in patient care and education. All patient rooms will have a mobile cart that was designed by a multi-departmental team. Carts are equipped with all needed supplies and equipment as well as workspace. “The key idea is to bring everything to the patient bedside, so nurses don’t have to hunt for supplies, and can spend more time in patient care and education,” Ehlers said.

David and Julie Mickelberg of Sioux Falls became parents to their son, Peter, on Aug. 5, 2005. He was delivered at 27 weeks gestation, after Julie had been on total bed rest for five weeks.

Peter was in the Avera McKennan NICU for two months – discharged a few weeks earlier than his original due date. He is now a healthy 10 year old, ready to begin the fourth grade, with keen interests in sports, including motocross and hockey. Based on their experiences as a NICU family, Julie served on a focus group for the design of the new NICU.

“We’re excited about the new amenities and technology that will be offered to NICU families, for example, more privacy and specialized rooms for multiple births. Yet during our NICU stay, what was important to us was the knowledge, care and concern of the staff. What I needed was a nurse to explain what was happening with Peter’s stats, or a Sister who was saying prayers over the isolettes. The one thing that will remain the same with the new NICU is the people – where their heart is, and how they approach patient care,” Julie said. “They took into consideration the needs of our entire family, and alleviated any concerns or stress we had, so we could do our best to be there for Peter.”

Through its Little Footprints, Big Hearts campaign to benefit the new NICU, the Avera McKennan Foundation is near its fundraising goal of $2 million.

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