NICU & Special Care Nursery

NICU and Special Care Nursery

Helping the Tiniest Babies

Virtua’s neonatal intensive care team provides preemies with a warm, quiet, protected place to eat, sleep and grow.

Throughout your stay in the Virtua Voorhees McNabb Family Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) or the Virtua Memorial Special Care Nursery (SCN), our doctors and nurses will clearly communicate what’s happening with your child. Dedicated to treating newborns with special needs, our NICU and SCN are staffed by teams of board-certified CHOP at Virtua neonatologists (pediatricians with advanced training in newborn intensive care), neonatal nurse practitioners and neonatal nurses. Our team offers advanced expertise in the complex care of the tiniest and sickest babies, and they do so with the greatest compassion and skill.

Highest level of care
As a state-designated Regional Perinatal Center, Virtua Voorhees receives babies referred from area hospitals when they require a high level of intensive care. These newborns are transferred to Virtua Voorhees by a trained neonatal transport team that includes a neonatal nurse practitioner.

We offer the latest technology in respiratory care, electronic monitoring and other leading-edge medical therapies for micro-preemies (babies weighing less than 2 pounds). We also have Ronald McDonald Family Rooms to provide families of hospitalized newborns a soothing place to relax—complete with kitchen, sitting area and Internet access.

Resources

NICU & SCN

Why do babies go to the NICU?
Babies who go to the NICU at Virtua Voorhees or the SCN at Virtua Memorial often are admitted because:

  • They're born prematurely (common in twins and triplets).
  • They have experienced difficulties during their delivery.
  • They show signs of breathing problems or other medical problems in the first few days of life.

The NICU differs from the SCN in that it provides the highest level of intensive care to very sick infants, while the SCN provides specialized care for infants with less severe medical problems.


As a state-designated Regional Perinatal Center, babies may be referred to Virtua Voorhees from area hospitals when they require a high level of intensive care. These newborns are transferred to Virtua Voorhees by a trained neonatal transport team that includes a neonatal nurse practitioner.

Why Virtua for NICU?

  • CHOP at Virtua physicians on staff
  • State-designated Regional Perinatal Center, providing the highest level of care for mothers and babies
  • Experience in delivering more than 8,000 babies a year
  • Maternal-fetal medicine program named "Center of Excellence" by Philadelphia Magazine
  • Comprehensive perinatal depression screening and treatment program recognized by the State of New Jersey and modeled by other NJ healthcare providers
For more information about Virtua's NICU, please call 1-888-VIRTUA-3 (1-888-847-8823)

The Intensive Care Nurseries Offer:

  • The latest technology in respiratory care, electronic monitoring and other leading-edge medical therapies for micro-preemies
    (babies weighing less than 2 pounds)
  • Developmental care, which involves creating a developmentally nurturing environment for newborns
  • Consultation provided by dedicated pediatric sub-specialists including cardiology, surgery, neurology, ophthalmology, ENT and urology
  • Phone consultations available for GI, ID, hematology and genetics
  • A plastic surgeon able to see babies
  • 24-hour parental access and access for siblings
  • Ronald McDonald Family Rooms to provide families of hospitalized newborns a soothing place to relax, complete with kitchen, sitting area and Internet access
  • Follow-up care provided in collaboration with pediatricians for high-risk infants after they leave the NICU

Support for Parents


While all of this is essential in helping preemies develop, the staff is also skilled in supporting parents during what can be an emotionally challenging time. Since some babies stay in the NICU or SCN for several weeks, the staff tries to make it feel like home for families. This includes:

  • Personalizing isolettes and cribs
  • Celebrating the newborn's milestones (gaining weight, breathing on own)
  • Involving parents in daily care and teaching them how to hold, diaper and feed babies who may be hooked up to medical equipment

Glossary: Common Terms

The doctors and nurses in the NICU or SCN explain and discuss each newborn's condition and treatment with families; however, many parents find it helpful to have a glossary they can reference at any time.

Following is a list of commonly used terms:

Anemia
Low level of red blood cells.

Apnea
A prolonged pause in breathing. This is a common problem in premature infants and may require monitoring or medication.

Aspiration
Inhaling a foreign substance into the lungs, such as formula or amniotic fluid.


Bagging
Pumping air into the baby's lungs using a rubber bag. This is a temporary measure that helps a baby breathe.

Bilirubin
A yellow-pigmented waste product that forms when the body naturally eliminates old red blood cells. It may make the skin and eyes look yellow.


Blood gas
Blood test used to monitor the level of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood.

Blood transfusion
Procedure in which a small amount of blood is given slowly through a vein.

Bradycardia (Brady)
A slowing of the baby's heart rate.


Care center/radiant warmer:
An open bed with an overhead warmer used to maintain baby's body temperature.

CAT scan
Special x-ray examination.


Chronic lung disease (CLD)
Previously known as bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD), this is a condition in which there are chronic changes in the baby's lungs.
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP): Maintaining low pressure in the airways to keep the lungs expanded.

Cyanosis
Blueness of the skin as a result of decreased oxygen levels.

Echocardiogram
Special ultrasound that enables the cardiologist to get a picture of the heart.

Electroencephalogram (EEG)
A test to record the electrical activity of the brain.


Electrocardiogram (EKG/ECG): A test to record the electrical activity of the heart.

Endotracheal tube (ET tube): A tube that passes through the baby's mouth or nose into the windpipe (trachea) to allow oxygen into the lungs.


Fontanel: Soft spots in the baby's head where the skull bones have not yet joined.

Gavage feedings (tube feedings): Providing nutrition through a plastic tube passed through the baby's mouth or nose and into the stomach.

Gram:
A unit of weight (i.e. 28 grams = one ounce; 454 grams = one pound).

Group B Streptococcus (also called GBS)

A normally occurring bacterium found in a women’s vagina that can increase the risk of preterm delivery, infection of the amniotic fluid, and infection of the uterus after delivery.

Hearing screening
Method to screen for hearing or hearing loss.


Heel stick
A blood sample obtained by pricking the baby's heel.


Hypoxia

A low level of oxygen in the baby's blood.


Intravenous (IV) therapy
Nutrition or medication given through a vein.


Isolette
A type of enclosed bed for an infant who is not mature or well enough to maintain her body temperature in an open crib.


Jaundice
A yellow skin color that develops in most premature babies and in some full-term babies.


Kangaroo care
Skin-to-skin care where the baby is placed on the bare chest of a parent.


Meconium
Dark-green material found in the baby's intestines. It's the first bowel movement after birth; it can be passed while the baby is still inside the mother.


Murmur

An extra sound heard in the chest that results from abnormal blood flow patterns. It may be due to structural heart abnormalities, though most have no significance.

Nasal cannula

Small prongs placed in the baby's nose that deliver oxygen.

NPO
Latin abbreviation for "nothing by mouth." If the baby is kept NPO, all feedings will be given intravenously.

Oxygen
Part of the air we breathe. Ordinary room air contains about 21 percent oxygen. Sick or premature infants often need extra oxygen, sometimes even 100 percent pure oxygen.

Oxyhood
A clear plastic box that's placed over the baby's head to provide additional oxygen and moisture.

Peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC line)
Special intravenous (IV) catheter used when IV therapy or antibiotics are administered for a long period of time.

Phototherapy
Treatment of jaundice using ultraviolet lights. The baby's eyes must remain covered for protection.

Pneumonia
An inflammation of the lungs. In newborns, this is most commonly due to infection or aspiration.

Pulse oximeter (pulse ox)
A machine that measures how well the blood is being oxygenated.

Reflux
A backward flow of stomach contents, generally referring to a type of vomiting, spitting up or regurgitation common in premature infants.

Respiratory distress syndrome (RDS)
Lung disease caused by lack of surfactant (lubricant in the lungs); a common cause of breathing difficulty in premature babies.

Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP)
A condition that develops in the eyes of some premature babies where the retina buckles and pulls away from the eyeball.

Seizure
A brief period of increased electrical activity in the brain. The baby's body may tense up and she may lose consciousness for a few moments.

Sepsis
A severe infection in the blood or tissues.

Small for gestational age (SGA)
A baby who is small at birth because of poor growth in the womb.

Spinal tap/lumbar puncture
A procedure in which a needle is inserted into the lower spine to obtain spinal fluid.

Suctioning
The process of removing secretions from the baby's nose, mouth or lungs by using either a bulb syringe or suction catheter.

Surfactant
A lubricant that lines the small air-filled sacs in the lungs and keeps the lungs from sticking together.

Tachycardia
A fast heart rate.

Tachypnea
A fast breathing rate.

Tremors
Shaking or trembling of the face or limbs.

Ultrasound
A diagnostic test that uses sound waves to look at the structure of internal organs.

Umbilical catheter
Catheter inserted into the baby's umbilical cord that is used to draw blood or give IV fluids.

Ventilator
A machine that helps an infant breathe by pumping oxygen into a tube that goes into the lungs.

Wean
To take away gradually. In the NICU or SCN, it is often used to describe the process of removing an infant from a ventilator or isolette.

FAQs

Do babies commonly go to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) or Special Care Nursery (SCN)? 
Approximately 10% of newborns go to the NICU or SCN. Some babies have a difficult transition from the womb to the world and need a little extra help. Most of these newborns go to these units because they're premature, multiples, or because they're having breathing difficulties. Newborns also are treated in the NICU for congenital heart defects, genetic disorders, or other disorders that may require surgery.

Can I visit my baby?
In addition to intensive medical care, hospitalized babies need a lot of love and attention from their families. Visitation is 24 hours a day for parents and care partners. Others may visit between 11 am and 8 pm. One parent must be at the baby’s bedside when visitors are present. 

When visiting the NICU, we ask that you limit visitors to 4 per family. In the SCN, we ask that you limit visitors to 3 per family. All other visitors must wait in the waiting room. 

No visitor with an illness will be permitted. Occasionally, it may be necessary to limit access to the NICU or SCN to parents only. We appreciate your understanding should this occur.


All visitors should follow good hygiene to protect the fragile babies from infection. Good hygiene includes:
  • Covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing
  • Disposing of tissues in the trash can
  • Washing your hands using soap and water or alcohol-based hand gel

Can children visit? 
Yes, children are able to visit the NICU and SCN. Here are the criteria under which they can visit:

  • Children visiting the NICU must be age 3 or older.
  • Children visiting the SCN must be age 5 or older.
  • All children must be accompanied by an adult.
  • We require a copy of the sibling’s immunization record from your pediatrician prior to visiting.
  • Siblings may not visit if they’ve been sick in the last two weeks.
  • If your child is visibly sick, we reserve the right to deny visitation.
  • No other children, besides siblings, are permitted in the NICU or SCN.
Is there a space for my family and me to rest? 
Waiting areas are available for visitors. Parents and caregivers can rest and relax in our Ronald McDonald Family Rooms. They provide a warm, home-like atmosphere and are equipped with a microwave, coffee machine, sink and refrigerator. 

Are there overnight accommodations? 
Moms who’ve just delivered need a lot of rest to heal and recover from delivery. Because you’re most relaxed at home, we recommend sleeping in the comfort of your own home as much as possible. During difficult situations, moms are able to stay overnight once they’ve been discharged for 48 hours. At Virtua Voorhees, overnight accommodations are available in our Ronald McDonald sleep rooms.

Will I be involved in my baby's care in the NICU or SCN?
Parents are the center of their baby's team of caregivers, and are encouraged to be as involved as possible. Virtua’s staff will explain all equipment, treatments and medications that are used to care for your baby. The staff will also keep you updated on your baby’s condition, will address the special needs of you and your baby, and will involve you in decisions regarding your baby’s care. When the baby is first admitted to an intensive care nursery, parents can sit next to the bed, touch and talk to the baby. As the baby improves, parents are able to hold, diaper and feed the baby and become more involved in overall care.

Can I breastfeed my baby in the NICU or SCN?
Mothers are encouraged to breastfeed their babies in the NICU or SCN, and the staff will do everything they can to support them. If a mother is planning to breastfeed but the baby is not yet ready, she can pump milk and store it for later use. Electric pumps are available to rent or purchase. For information, call 1-888-VIRTUA-3 (1-888-847-8823). Once the baby begins to breastfeed, mothers may use a separate breastfeeding room in the hospital.

What is developmental care?
The goal of developmental care is to provide a womb-like environment for the baby while in the NICU or SCN. This is accomplished by keeping the lights dim, keeping the nursery quiet, and using special blankets and bumpers to position the baby.

When can I take my baby home?
This is the most frequently asked question, but also the most difficult one. The neonatologists take a number of factors into consideration when deciding if the baby is ready to go home. The baby should be able to do the following:

  • Breathe on his or her own
  • Regulate his or her own body temperature
  • Take all feedings by breast or bottle
  • Show steady weight gain
The course of care for each baby is unique, but the doctor will be sure to let the parents know when the time is getting near to take their little one home.

Staff Descriptions

The NICU and SCN are staffed by teams of skilled healthcare professionals who work with you to provide your baby the highest level of care. This includes:

Neonatologists
Board-certified pediatricians with advanced training to provide intensive care for newborns with special medical needs.

Pediatricians
Board-certified physicians trained to care for newborns and children.


Pediatric sub-specialists

Pediatricians with specialized training in other fields including pediatric surgery, pediatric cardiology, pediatric neurology, pediatric otolaryngology (ENT) and pediatric urology.

Staff nurses
Registered nurses with special training to care for infants.

Clinical nurse specialists
Registered nurses with advanced training in patient education.

Neonatal nurse practitioners
Registered nurses with advanced training in the intensive care of newborns with special medical needs.

Respiratory therapists
Certified therapists who evaluate and treat newborns with breathing problems.

X-ray technicians
Registered technicians who take x-rays of the human body for use in diagnosing medical problems.

Social workers
Counselors who are trained to help families adjust to the emotional and practical demands of newborns with special challenges. These individuals deal with issues such as discharge, housing, transportation, and financial arrangements.

Case managers/discharge planners
Registered nurses who follow the infant's progress from admission to discharge. Other responsibilities include family support, insurance issues, nursing visits and more.

Lactation consultants
Experienced professionals who can give mothers practical tips and encouragement about breastfeeding.


The staff members of the NICU and SCN are committed to you and your new baby. They understand this can be a stressful time, and will do everything to make this an outstanding experience for your family.

If you need to contact any of these healthcare professionals, call the Virtua Voorhees NICU at (856) 247-3831

or the Virtua Memorial Special Care Nursery at (609) 261-7053.

Specialties

locations

memorial hospital

Virtua Memorial Hospital

175 Madison Avenue
Mount Holly, NJ 08060

Phone: (609) 914-6000
voorhess hospital

Virtua Voorhees Hospital

100 Bowman Drive
Voorhees, NJ 08043

Phone: (856) 247-3000

You may also like

KidsHealth - Breathe better

At Risk Babies Can Breathe Better

Here’s how babies born prematurely or with respiratory problems can go on to have normal, healthy lives despite chronic lung disease.

Read More
KidsHealth - Seriously Ill

Seek Support When Caring for Seriously Ill Child

Here’s how support groups, social workers, and therapists can guide you through this stressful time.

Read More
a-miraculous-entrance

Personal Story: A Miraculous Entrance

Just four days before her due date, Susan Eley experienced some minor cramping. Find out what happened next.

Read More
Charlie Lindemoen Story

NICU Experience

Jodi's daughter was born at 26 weeks gestation weighing 1 pound, 1 ounce. Jodi credits the Virtua Voorhees' NICU staff for saving her daughter's life.

Watch Video
KidsHealth - Newborn Screening

Newborn Metabolic Screening

Newborn screenings look for harmful or potentially fatal disorders that aren't apparent at birth. Find out which tests are done what they're designed to detect.

Read More
Luke Worrell

NICU Experience

Kathy's son was born at 24 weeks weighing 1 pound, 8 ounces. Thanks to the care he received at Virtua Voorhees' NICU, he is a happy, healthy 3 year old.

Watch Video