Jonathan Klein calls it “the hallway of hope,” a reception area lined with photographs of former patients from the Children’s Hospital of Iowa Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and the happy, healthy children they are today—children like Atticus Murray, who spent a week in the NICU following his 2004 birth.
Families of NICU infants have good reason to be hopeful. The unit offers a model facility and patient outcomes that put it in the top 10 percent of NICUs nationally. It’s one of the services that make the Children’s Hospital of Iowa at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics a lifesaving resource for kids across Iowa.
NICU patients include premature babies born up to 17 weeks early and full-term infants who need specialized care. They stay an average of 21 days, with the tiniest infants hospitalized as long as four months.
Renovated in 2004, the NICU features 55 private rooms, including some that accommodate families for extended stays and others that are designed for surgery or heart-lung bypass. The facility’s design has attracted national attention, according to Klein, associate professor of pediatrics and medical director of the NICU.
The unit has earned a reputation for both clinical services and research. It is one of 16 programs collaborating in a Neonatal Research Network established by the National Institutes of Health. It also belongs to the Vermont Oxford Network, an organization of more than 600 NICUs dedicated to improving neonatal care.
More than 20,000 babies have been treated at the NICU since it opened in 1974, and hundreds of former patients and family members gather every other May for a campus reunion. Their survival is a testament to the NICU staff and the belief that the smallest, youngest patients need and deserve top-notch care.