Friday marks the 9-year anniversary of the Owensboro Health Regional Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). The NICU was first established as a Level II facility at the old Owensboro Health Hospital building on East Parrish Avenue. When the new Owensboro Health Regional Hospital was built on Pleasant Valley Road, it opened up the opportunity for the NICU to upgrade to Level III status, one of very few in the region.
As a Level III NICU, OHRH can provide care for babies born at 27 weeks or greater in gestation and babies who may have been born with a critical illness, regardless of gestational age. The NICU also provides infants with respiratory support and specialty medications in the comfort of Omnibeds that help to simulate the mother’s womb. Infants or expectant mothers who are less than 27 gestational weeks are transported to Norton Children’s Hospital in Louisville for more subspecialty care.
After 9 years, the Owensboro NICU has not only become associated with providing the latest in medical care for premature infants, but also for going the extra mile to reassure and comfort families in what can often be a very stressful time in their lives.
NICU Medical Director Dr. Bridget Burshears said she and the medical and nursing staff made up of neonatologists, neonatal nurse practitioners, and NICU registered nurses, understand that staying in the NICU is not an experience that most expectant parents anticipate.
“We just know that nobody plans to be here — that’s not in their plan,” Burshears said. “This is not their dream of their perfect delivery taking their perfect baby home.”
Burshears believes this is why her staff often goes the extra mile to ensure families feel welcome and cared about during their NICU stay, especially during the holidays.
“A lot of firsts happen here that would normally happen in the nursery or at home,” Burshears said. “There’s holidays spent in NICU.”
Burshears said the staff ensures that holidays in the NICU are treated as the special occasions they are, with Santa recently visiting for Christmas, making sure each family had their own stocking, and setting up a photo booth with props for New Year’s Eve.
According to OHRH Marketing Specialist Dariush Shafa, the NICU staff “treats everyone well and goes above and beyond.”
Shafa shared the story of two parents that were married in the NICU this past summer. He said the staff went out of their way to provide a chaplain, cake, wedding photos, as well as a punch bowl and catered snacks.
“We had a wedding right here in the NICU,” Shafa said. “It meant the world to them.”