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Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)

24/7 Care for Newborns That Need Assistance

More than 900 of East Tennessee Children's Hospital's smallest patients are treated in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) every year. The babies in the NICU were born before their due date or have breathing problems, neonatal abstinence syndrome or congenital birth defects. Your baby will have a nurse practitioner and neonatologist, plus nurses, respiratory therapists, subspecialists and a whole team who are experts in treating babies. Our staff members are here to answer your questions and help you feel comfortable in the NICU.

The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at East Tennessee Children's Hospital is a Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. A Level III NICU is one that is equipped to care for very small and very sick newborn babies.

Our Facility

Scripps Network Tower at East Tennessee Children's Hospital

The NICU is located in the new South Wing, or Scripps Network Tower, of East Tennessee Children's Hospital. It is newly equipped with 46 private rooms, plus 4 twin rooms. These rooms allow our medical staff to give the best possible care to our tiniest patients. Enhanced family areas, such as a rooftop garden, give our patient families a place to relax and relieve their anxiety.

Safety, Quality and Expertise

Safety and quality are always the highest priorities of our work in the NICU and in all of Children's Hospital. The hospital is one of the top pediatric centers for safety and quality because of decreases in central line associated blood stream infections, surgical site infections, pressure injuries and ventilator associated pneumonias. The Children's Hospital NICU has had zero ventilator-associated pneumonia cases for the last two years due to better practices and higher standards. Learn more about patient safety at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital.

At East Tennessee Children’s Hospital, we are well known for our high quality and care:

  • Art pf Healing objectOnly NICU that allows sibling visitation
  • Total body cooling, available to start on transport
  • We have a focus on brain development - everything we do focuses on the developing brain - from technology, treatment to family bonding
  • We are one year Central Line-Associated Bloodstream Infection (CLABSI) free!
  • Provide therapies such as massage and music by the Pain and Palliative Care service
  • Built in respite areas for families when they need a break - family kitchen areas, rooftop garden, and a family business center with computer/printer access
  • Food pantries provide meals to families that don't want to step away, or who cannot afford to step away for a meal. These are provided by our volunteers
  • Our cuddlers are available 24/7 to swing, rock, cuddle, bounce, sway, pat or just hold a baby whose parents are away. This service is especially valuable for NAS babies (see below)
  • Children’s Hospital has been recognized across the country for spreading awareness about the Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome issue and the methods it has adopted.
  • In 2011, Children's Hospital staff created a new way to treat NAS babies. The NICU now uses small doses of morphine to help the babies through their withdrawal. The infants cannot become dependent on morphine.
  • Our NICU has adopted new technology such as cooling blankets to help babies with hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy rest and recover.
  • Children's Hospital has 57 very experienced cuddlers who calm babies in the NICU. These volunteers hold babies, rock them to sleep and give them a human connection when parents are not there.
  • In 2012, Children's Hospital built a brand new NICU with 16 private rooms for NAS babies.
  • In 2016, a $75 million expansion was completed, which included the addition of 44 private NICU rooms to improve the environment for both babies and their families.
  • In 2018, an additional 6 private rooms were added.

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS)

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) happens when babies are in contact with medications or illegal drugs in the womb. East Tennessee Children's Hospital developed a special treatment protocol for babies with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome.

Grow With Me Clinic

The Grow with Me clinic is a care coordination service and outpatient clinic designed to serve at-risk children who have experienced intrauterine drug exposure or were diagnosed and treated for Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS).

Lactation Services

The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at East Tennessee Children's Hospital provides lactation assistance for new moms of babies in the NICU, to help them find the best way to see to their baby's nutritional needs.

Learn more about Lactation Services.

Lifeline Ambulance

Children's Hospital's Lifeline ambulances are custom-made neonatal/pediatric transport vehicles equipped like mobile intensive care units in order to bring in premature babies and other pediatric patients from hospitals in surrounding areas. Enough supplies are on the ambulance that any size patient, from a premature infant to a 21-year-old, can be cared for upon transfer to the Children's Hospital NICU or PICU. Lifeline answers more than 365 calls each year.

Inside the NICU

Inside the NICU Issue 1 2019