Each year, the UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital supports nearly 3,000 infant deliveries and 850 infant admissions of all gestational ages, of which approximately 500 are babies born at this facility. While most families go home within a couple of days, some babies require longer-term critical health care.
Our Neonatal ICU team serves approximately 850 newborns each year, providing specialized around-the-clock attention and often lifesaving support until their patients are ready to leave. The team also supports these babies’ families while they watch over them.
For these parents, balancing work and older children while nurturing their babies in the NICU can be challenging. In response, our new NICU opened on Feb. 27, revealing a renovated space for our tiniest patients with an area specifically designed to make families feel at home.
Phase 1 unveiled a 68-bed space filled with semiprivate areas and private rooms, divided into four “neighborhoods,” and was completed in November. Phase 2, the final addition, added 1,000 square feet featuring a large family and visitor waiting area, sibling play space and a family support room.
“Families and staff love the new space, and one of the things they consistently comment on is the privacy,” said Beth Talaga, M.S.N. ARNP, UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital Neonatal ICU nurse manager. “Parents are able to spend quality time with their babies, while patient care providers can still monitor these still fragile patients without being intrusive.”
Equipped with a refrigerator, microwave, coffee maker, comfortable seating and lockers, the renovation supports families’ physical and emotional needs. It provides resources to help them relax away from the bedside, but close to their infants. Guests also have access to a March of Dames trained family support team member who staffs the area to aid them during their time in the unit.
The sibling play space is monitored by trained volunteers, who help parents find relief when caring for multiple children. While parents are tending to their NICU babies, siblings can participate in 90 minutes of supervised play in the area, which is filled with toys. The visitor space is staffed daily from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., and it is secured but accessible for families after hours.
“It was amazing to watch the energy, creativity and enthusiasm of staff and faculty merge with the generous contributions of patrons to build this space that supports the needs of our smallest patients and their families,” said Brad Pollitt, A.I.A., UF Health Shands Facilities Development vice president.
“From spaces that support the highest level of care to the transition home for families, this environment has been built with the patient in mind.”