July 2, 2019 — While most of my stops have been inside a clinical unit or a conference room, today I got to enjoy the perfect weather on a patio at Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas for my visit with the Rady Children’s neonatal intensive care unit team.

Fun and festive homemade desserts

The patio was decked out in a Fourth of July theme, complete with plenty of red, white and blue and a beach barbecue featuring tri-tip from Cardiff Seaside Market (popularly known as “Cardiff Crack”) and an amazing homemade dessert depicting teddy bears on the beach (check out the photo).

Over lunch, I learned that a NICU did not exist at Scripps Encinitas until May 2003, and that three of the original six nurses who opened the unit are still part of the team. This staff of 21 nurses is well-trained (more than 75 percent have an advanced nursing certification and three of the nurses have master’s degrees) and resourceful. On an eight-bed unit like this, with an average staff of three nurses, the team needs to be ready to manage a range of challenging situations.

Meeting the team

Scripps Encinitas was the first Baby-Friendly hospital in San Diego, and the NICU is the only one that exists in a Baby-Friendly host hospital. The Baby-Friendly designation means that staff support breastfeeding and that mother-baby contact, such as skin-to-skin “kangaroo” care and moms staying with their newborns, is encouraged.

Some other interesting facts about the Scripps Encinitas NICU include the following:

  • Nurses who staff the unit have a combined 192 years of Rady Children’s nursing experience
  • The average daily census is four patients
  • It’s one of the only Rady Children’s satellite NICUs with windows

Touring the unit with Jane O’Donnell, MD

I then had an opportunity to tour the unit, where two newborns were under the watchful eye of the staff nurses and neonatologist Jane O’Donnell, MD. There is definitely a family atmosphere here, and I got the sense that this team is always willing to help each other out.

Although I would have loved to stay and soak up more of the Encinitas sun, I headed back to main campus with my passport and a deep appreciation for the excellent work this team does every day for the little ones in their care.