Sept. 16, 2019 – My day began bright and early during shift change at the neonatal intensive care unit on the main campus. With 64 licensed beds and a multidisciplinary team of about 300 members, this Level 4 NICU provides care for the tiniest and most critically ill newborns, including those who have undergone a wide variety of complex surgeries. During my visit, 51 babies were under our team’s care. The neonatal team includes board-certified neonatologists, neonatal nurse practitioners, and neonatal respiratory therapists and registered nurses with advanced life support training — our patient families certainly have a strong support system in their corners!
My first stop was breakfast: coffee, fruit and donuts from Peterson’s Donut Corner in Escondido and delicious chocolate chip scones, which Neonatal Services Director Linda Glenn made from scratch. We then toured the ACP NICU, stopping to chat with night shift nurses about how their shift went (one common response was “busy!”). Fun facts: One nurse I met has a twin who works at Sharp Mary Birch, and another worked as an actress in New York City before starting a new career as a NICU nurse.
RN Linda Black then told me about her efforts around educating staff and parents about gastrostomy tubes (also called G-tubes). Linda developed 12 educational videos in English and Spanish, a comprehensive guide, tip cards and a G-tube travel kit for parents that is stocked with supplies, emergency phone numbers and instructions cards. A quality improvement project found that these interventions increased staff and parent comfort levels in all aspects of G-tube care. Research is another important way the Division of Neonatology helps improve quality of care and outcomes for babies. Currently, the team is researching the benefits of human milk, strategies for protecting brain development and preventing infection, and the application of genomic data for precision medicine.
Dozens of nurses soon began gathering in the hallway for the charge nurse huddle and to pick up their assigned phones. Nurses use the special phones to receive critical results, communicate with providers, receive parent or family calls, or make calls directly from the patient rooms. I positioned myself next to the basket of phones so I could meet as many team members as possible!
Next, we headed down to the NICU in the Nelson Pavilion. This was the original NICU before the new ACP location debuted in 2010. It was closed for several months, but we needed to reopen it to accommodate more babies. The space has undergone some enhancements, including installing half-walls and mobile screens to give families more privacy. Frequently, the lower-acuity newborns stay in this unit.
We then headed back to the NICU conference room in the ACP, where charge nurses, resource nurses, CHET team members and social workers were busy conducting the morning report. This team reviews the status of every patient, shares observations and updates care plans. Every baby is unique, and this team is absolutely dedicated to making sure they receive the best personalized care. They are all rooting for these little ones to get better and go home with their families as healthy and happy as possible!
While I didn’t end up having a chance to play diaper pong during my tour (it’s kind of like beer pong, but instead of tossing a ping pong ball into a cup, you aim the ball at a diaper), keep the game handy… you never know when I’ll be back for another visit!