Babies on Board
Friday, June 1, 2012 • 10:50am
Despite all the excitement leading up to a baby's arrival, pregnancy and birth are fraught with some level of worry and concern too. Fortunately, the majority of "what ifs" and "what abouts" are for naught—but when things go awry, it's important to be surrounded by professionals who can help. "Overlook's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit is staffed 24 hours a day to look after our patients and manage labor and delivery emergencies," says Lawrence Skolnick, MD, Co-Director of Neonatology at Overlook Medical Center. "And because Overlook's NICU is a Level 3 facility, critical babies rarely need to endure risky transfers to other hospitals and can instead receive all their care right here." In fact, the reputation of Overlook's NICU is so well regarded, couples facing high-risk pregnancies often come from surrounding communities and beyond to have their babies delivered here.
Neonatology is a division of pediatrics that specializes in the care of newborns who are too premature or too sick to go to the main nursery. Each year, approximately 10 percent of the babies born at Overlook require NICU care. In some cases, the neonatology staff is aware of a problem in advance and is able to meet with parents for a perinatal consultation to plan for a baby's birth. In other instances, the neonatology team is called in emergently when an obstetrician encounters an unexpected complication. "About 50 percent of our patients are admitted to the NICU as a result of complications from prematurity," explains Skolnick. "The other half come to us with a variety of problems, ranging from respiratory issues and congenital heart defects to intestinal obstructions and jaundice."
The Overlook NICU boasts a staff of 13 physicians, which is a significant number considering the extra three years of training pediatricians must undergo to become neonatologists. "We're also a very academic group," adds Skolnick. "Currently our physicians are actively engaged in research aimed at preventing brain injuries in premature babies, and we apply that knowledge to our daily work in the hospital." In addition to the physicians, the unit also has a team of certified neonatal nurse practitioners (registered nurses with advanced degrees in neonatal care), many of whom have been with the department for 25 years or more. The neonatology team also works closely with Overlook's extensive staff of pediatric subspecialists, including surgeons, urologists, orthopedists, gastroenterologists, infectious disease specialists, endocrinologists, and cardiologists.
Although some babies may visit the NICU only briefly, the average length of stay is about two weeks, which can be hard on parents. That's why Overlook's NICU puts special emphasis on being family-friendly. "In our NICU, parents are parents—not visitors—and we stay open 24 hours a day to allow moms and dads to be with their babies whenever they like," says Skolnick. The unit also offers a play area for older siblings, so families can visit together. And a state-of-the-art video system was installed this year to allow mothers to view their infants from their hospital rooms if they are too sick to visit the NICU in person.
Following a baby's stay in the NICU, the neonatology staff remains available to field questions and assist in arranging any necessary follow-up care, like blood work, eye exams, or developmental assessments. Says Skolnick, "We want to make sure that moms and dads feel confident in their ability to care for their baby independently."
For more information about maternity services at Overlook Medical Center, call (908) 522-2304.
Reminder: Overlook Medical Center 5K Presented by The Summit Running Company, Tuesday, June 26th, 7:00 p.m. at the Summit Village Green. Proceeds to benefit Summit PAL and Atlantic Neuroscience Institute Brain Aneurysm Fund. For more information and to register, visit www.overlook5k.com
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