Neonatal Intensive Care Unit
The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) is part of the New South Wales network of neonatal units serving Hunter New England and the North Coast of NSW. The Unit has 18 intensive care and 24 special care beds, providing state-of-the-art, comprehensive specialty care to newborn infants with a wide range of congenital and acquired conditions. More than 1100 newborns are cared for annually, including extremely premature infants born as early as 23 weeks gestation, up to term infants with a variety of medical and surgical illnesses.
In addition to the work in the intensive care unit, the staff provides advice and information to parents antenatally through the Maternal Foetal Medicine Unit. On the postnatal wards, NICU specialists support midwives and oversee the care provided to babies with problems that may not require admission to the NICU itself.
The unit liaises with the Community Nursing Team in order to provide ongoing care after leaving hospital. Follow-up care at John Hunter Children's Hospital is provided through the Growth and Development Clinic for babies born at less than 34 weeks gestation or those presenting with significant neonatal problems. This includes extensive neurodevelopmental assessment at 12 and 24 months of corrected age.
Who will be responsible for my baby's care?
The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at John Hunter Children's Hospital consists of a specially trained team of specialist physicians, paediatric and newborn trainees, nurse practitioners, neonatal nurses and other health professionals with an aim to provide supportive, family centred care in a technologically cutting edge environment.
The nurse unit managers are in charge of all nursing staff which includes nurses of all grades, some of whom are in training. The medical staff consists of Neonatologists, neonatal fellows or advanced trainees and registrars. The unit also has several neonatal nurse practitioners who work on a rotating shift with the junior medical staff in providing neonatal intensive care.
Other staff include social workers, radiographers, dietitians, pharmacist and physiotherapists.
Dr Paul Craven (Director - Newborn Services)
Dr Rebecca Glover
Dr Javeed Travadi
Dr Koert de Waal
Dr Larissa Korostenski
Dr Anil Lakkund
Dr Nilkant Phad
Dr Joanne McIntosh
Sinead Redman (Acting)
Nurse Unit Managers
Lauren Judd (Acting)
Life in the NICU - what to expect for parents and visitors
Around 25% of all babies born at John Hunter need the specialised care of the NICU. Some examples are babies born prematurely, babies with breathing difficulties and those requiring surgery.
The NICU environment can be quite daunting and terrifying for parents. They may find their newborn child hooked up to high-tech looking machines with tubes and wires. Some of the babies are so small they may not even look real. This initial experience is intensified by the fact that most parents were not expecting to be there and are therefore further unprepared for the sights and the sounds of the NICU.
Parents can learn about their child's condition and the treatments and procedures that apply to the best of their ability. Additionally, parents can do many things to make their baby as comfortable as possible. Parents can whisper to or gently touch their baby. "Kangaroo care," which is a skin-to-skin holding of the baby, and breastfeeding are actively encouraged and instituted as soon as the baby is clinically stable. Mother's are encouraged to start expressing breast milk and parents are supported and encouraged in participating in the care of their baby.
The staff in the unit are aware of how parents may feel and are trained to provide support. The unit also has the services of dedicated social workers keen to be of assistance in a range of ways from providing emotional support, facilitating meetings with Neonatal consultants, to organising meal vouchers and parking.
Visiting the NICU
The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) is situated on Level 3 of John Hunter Children's Hospital.
Parents are welcome in the nursery at any time.
To reduce the risk of infection for your baby we ask all parents and visitors to wash their hands every time they enter the nursery. It is necessary to remove bracelets and watches, jackets & coats, roll sleeves up and wash arms up to the elbows. We also require all visitors to gel hands with alcohol gel kept at each baby's bed side prior to and after any contact with the baby or his/her equipment. A handout is available for further information - please ask the nurse looking after your baby.
- No visitors unless they are accompanied by a parent or the parent gives permission by notifying the NICU staff. You may write a visitor list and leave it by your baby's bed side.
- Only 2 visitors at the baby's bed side at any one time and this number includes parents.
- Visitors who have a cold, influenza, cold sore, diarrhoea, vomiting or any other infection please check with the nursing staff before entering the nursery.
- We request that when you visit, you stay by your baby's bed side and do not visit other babies.
- We have a code of confidentiality in the nursery, so no information will be given to any visitor other than the parents.
- Please ensure that footwear is worn in the nursery at all times. The reason we ask this is because sometimes accidental breakages or spillages may put you at risk.
- Please observe the signs placed around the NICU. These have been placed to make the nursery environment better for your baby.
- Visitors are NOT permitted to have hot drinks or food in the patient care areas of the NICU
- Please switch your mobile phones to SILENT in the NICU as they may create a noise hazard for sick babies.
- Please do not leave any valuables unattended on the unit.
- Lockers are available at the entrance to NICU for parents and visitors to use. We strongly encourage you to use these lockers for the duration of your baby's stay in NICU to keep your valuables secure. For a $2 deposit, you will be allocated a locker and provided a key. Upon your baby's discharge from the NICU, and return of the key, you will receive your $2 deposit back.
Parents may visit their baby at any time of the day.
Quiet time is 12pm - 3pm daily. This is your baby's rest or sleep time and gives the baby a break from the normally bright and busy environment of the NICU. Only parents are permitted to visit at this time.
The nursery may be closed at other times during the day for sterile procedures or at very busy times. This is at the discretion of the staff. We do hope that this does not cause any inconvenience to you or your visitors.
What to do in an emergency at home - (CPR) classes
We recommend that you attend CPR classes designed for all babies. These classes are in addition to any other CPR program you might have attended previously. Classes are held on a Wednesday at 11.30am in the nursery. CPR classes can also be arranged in the post-natal wards (see ward K2 for days and times). If you are unable to attend on a Wednesday please ask the nurse caring for your baby to arrange an alternative time for you.
Online 'Baby CPR Training', for a baby under 12-months of age.
Facilities for parents
Accommodation - Ronald McDonald House can usually provide accommodation for parents who are from out of town. This can be arranged by the NICU social worker.
The Ronald McDonald Family Room (adjacent to Ward J1) is available for parents to have a rest; express breast milk; shower and take some ‘time out'. Tea and coffee facilities are available.
NICU Parent's Lounge and family facilities are available just inside the main entrance to the NICU.
Social Worker - There is a social worker on staff who is involved in providing support for families of all infants in our nursery. The nursing staff can contact the social worker for you, so please ask.
The Outreach Liaison Nurse is available in working hours for any problems you may wish to discuss.
It is important to note that our unit policy is to give information over the phone to parents only.
John Hunter Switch (02)4921 3000
Neonatal Intensive Care Unit
Ward Clerk (02)4921 4410
Level 3 (02)4921 4365
Level 2 (02)4921 4411
When phoning please ask to speak to the nurse caring for your baby.