T.J. Samson opens Neonatal Intensive Care Unit


There are few things that T.J. Samson Community Hospital is more excited to announce than its Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). The Level II NICU opened its doors earlier this month, and provides crucial care for newborns who are premature or ill. This new NICU is a result of a collaboration between T.J. Samson and PedForAll, which partners with hospitals to provide pediatric services.

            Every year some 1, 200 babies arrive at T.J. Samson. And as many as 1 out of 10 of them need specialized medical treatment before their parents can take them home.

“Previously, these babies were transferred to a hospital miles away in order to receive that care,” says Mark D. Hughes, MD, FAAP, a Pediatric Hospitalist and member of the highly skilled NICU team at T.J. Samson. “But now the vast majority of these babies can be treated close to home. This is so much easier for families, emotionally and practically, and a real gift to our community.”

Still another big benefit of the NICU: Pregnant women who arrive at T.J. Samson in preterm labor will likely be able to deliver here, rather than being transferred to another hospital.

A focus on fragile babies

This addition of a Level II NICU, also known as a special care nursery, means T.J. Samson can now care for babies who:

• Arrive as early as 32 weeks.

• Weigh as little as 3.3 pounds.

• Need respiratory support or specialized medicine because their lungs are still developing.

• Have trouble feeding or staying warm.

Have low blood sugar, the main source of fuel for the brain and body.  

• Suffer withdrawal symptoms after being exposed to opioids or other drugs in the womb.

            Level II NICUs typically can safely treat up to 90% of all newborns who need extra medical attention when they’re born, Dr. Hughes says.

 Babies who require an even higher level of care will be transferred to an appropriate hospital, including Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, Norton Children’s Hospital in Louisville or TriStar Centennial Children’s Hospital in Nashville.

A peek inside

The NICU at T.J. Samson has four beds for tiny patients, and it offers newly purchased technology specific for newborns, including equipment to support breathing as babies’ lungs mature.

            Should you ever have a baby who needs to stay in the new NICU, you can count on dedicated care.

 “Either a neonatologist, pediatric hospitalist or neonatal nurse practitioner is on hand 24/7—and ready to respond to any concerning change in a baby’s status,” Dr. Hughes says. And because newborns in NICUs need constant monitoring, the NICU nurses typically only watch over two to three babies at time.

You’ll find the new NICU in what was once exclusively a nursery for healthy babies. But with most healthy babies now rooming with their moms to encourage breastfeeding and bonding, the extra space was converted into a NICU.

“It couldn’t have a more important use,” Dr. Hughes says. And chances are many area parents will agree.

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