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HMHEB’s Expanded NICU Helps Families Adjust

BEDFORD, Texas – Parents with premature or special needs babies face the usual adjustments that come with caring for a new baby, plus they may have to learn to administer home medication and operate home medical equipment. The newly expanded and redesigned Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Harris Methodist H•E•B Hospital helps ease the transition from hospital to home for families of babies cared for in the unit.

“All parents of newborns are nervous when they take their babies home, especially if their child has spent time in the NICU,” said Kim Smith, MD, director of the NICU at Harris Methodist H•E•B Hospital and a neonatologist on the medical staff. “It can be a big shock for parents if they haven't been able to adjust to the additional things they have to do to care for a premature baby, who may have three to four medications and be hooked up to oxygen or monitoring equipment. The new facility helps parents gain confidence at caring for their babies' special needs.”

Before going home, parents stay for a night or two in the Rooming In Room, which is housed within the NICU. During that time, parents take over the care of their baby while being able to draw on the expertise of the nursing staff. Parents need to be able to care for their baby properly before they can go home together, Dr. Smith said.

The lighting in the NICU is programmed to mimic the light patterns of the sun and moon over a 24-hour period, said Jennifer Williams, manager of the hospital's NICU and nursery. Harris Methodist H•E•B Hospital's NICU is the only facility in Tarrant County with this feature. “This is really important because it helps the babies get accustomed to the rhythm of day and night,” Williams said. “Not only does it help the babies' development, it also makes the transition to home easier.”

“Babies get used to the hustle and bustle of the NICU, the humming and beeping of machinery and the constant source of light in that environment. Sometimes when the babies go home to a quiet, dark room, they're not used to it. The lighting system helps babies and parents more easily overcome this challenge,” Dr. Smith said.

The expansion allows Harris Methodist H•E•B Hospital to treat babies born as early as 28 weeks, Dr. Smith said. Typically, pregnancies last about 40 weeks. The hospital will also be able to accept an increased number of transfers from other local hospitals with NICUs at capacity or from hospitals with level II NICUs.

Harris Methodist H•E•B Hospital began construction on the expanded NICU in October 2004. The $2.2 million project, overseen by The Beck Group in Dallas, adds twelve beds to create a sixteen-bed unit. The NICU is housed in the Siratt Women's Center, which opened in 2000. To help fund the expansion, the Annual Harris Methodist H•E•B Hospital Charity Gala raised $400,000 over the last two years.

About Harris Methodist H•E•B Hospital
Harris Methodist H•E•B Hospital, a member of Texas Health Resources, is a 284-bed, acute-care facility serving Northeast Tarrant County since 1973. Services provided at Harris Methodist H•E•B Hospital include outpatient surgery, women's services, a level III neonatal intensive care unit, a dedicated oncology care unit, neurosurgery, cardiovascular surgery and a dedicated cardiac care unit, cardiac rehabilitation, physical medicine and rehabilitation, occupational health services, psychiatric and addiction treatment and pediatrics.

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