Prime Care: SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital
When babies arrive ahead of schedule, they often need special care. Their bodies are still developing to handle life outside the womb, so vigilant monitoring and support for the family are necessary requirements. To help these vulnerable patients have a healthy beginning, SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital is opening a new, technologically advanced neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) in January.
Dr. Mohamad Al-Hosni, SLUCare neonatologist and NICU director for the hospital, says the new sixth-floor unit features 34 large, private rooms and two twin rooms, and is designed to be a calm, comforting space. “The old NICU model usually involved big rooms where babies were clustered in pods, but the new thinking is that they need more contact with their mothers and families in their own space,” Al-Hosni says. “A private room is especially helpful if the mother is breastfeeding. We want to get her and the family more involved in the baby’s care so they will feel more comfortable and knowledgeable when they go home.”
In-room technology includes incubating beds for infants; modern pumps and refrigerators for breast milk; and NicView, a video system that lets family and friends see babies in real time through a secure online portal. There also is space for family members to relax and sleep in the room; couches that convert to beds; recliners for more comfortable feeding; laundry and shower facilities; and personal storage space. The unit is pleasantly decorated with nature imagery by local photographer Larry Emerson.
“It’s a beautiful area,” says SLUCare neonatologist Dr. Connie Anderson. “Older NICU spaces tend to be less personal, but this one has a comfortable feel with gentle light. It’s a better environment for everyone—babies, families and staff.” Al-Hosni adds, “Natural light and reduced noise have a positive effect on premature babies’ neurological development. The unit and private rooms were built with this in mind.”
A new family lounge includes a TV, kitchenette, phone charging stations, tables and chairs. Parents and visitors can use the space to eat, talk or just take a break. “It lets them step away from the patient room but still be close by,” Anderson says. “It also allows them to meet other families and gain support and encouragement.” The idea is to keep babies and family members in close proximity for maximum early bonding. “The average time a baby spends in the NICU is between 10 and 14 days, and some are with us for several weeks or more,” Al-Hosni says. “We want to make that time as productive as possible.”
St. Mary’s is known for its care for high-risk infants. The hospital delivers about 3,500 babies a year, and around 800 spend time in the NICU. “There are a number of reasons a baby may be born prematurely,” Al-Hosni says. “It can happen when the mother is especially young or old, or has high blood pressure, diabetes or other health conditions. Preterm birth can be difficult to predict and prevent, so it’s important to have state-of-the-art care to give each baby a healthy start.”
The Family Birthplace at SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital, staffed by SLUCare physicians, is dedicated to helping women have healthy babies. Pictured on the cover: Dr. Connie Anderson with a young patient. For more information, call 314.768.8000 or visit ssmhealth.com/maternity.
Cover design by Julie Streiler | Cover photo by Tim Parker Photography
Pictured at top: A room in the new St. Mary’s NICU
Photo courtesy of SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital