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Monmouth Medical Center NICU nurses celebrate revamped unit

Monday January 13, 2014
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For parents of some of the most fragile babies in a neonatal ICU — some weighing less than a pound or born prematurely — being separated for even a few hours to sleep in a hospital room can be agonizing.

Parents at Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch, N.J., now can stay right in the NICU overnight with their babies, thanks to a recent $2 million expansion. The expansion was made possible by a gift from the Hirair and Anna Hovnanian Foundation to the Monmouth Medical Center Foundation.

Parents can stay with their child in a room with a private bathroom inside the unit to learn the sounds of alarms and monitors they will need to recognize once the baby is home, or just to be there if the baby’s condition takes a sudden turn.

Exhausted parents also need a place to sit quietly and have a cup of coffee, according to Jim Breslin, RN, BSN, MBA, clinical director of the Regional Newborn Center at the Unterberg Children’s Hospital at Monmouth Medical Center.

The parent room is part of an expansion of both the special care nursery for the less critically ill babies preparing to go home and the critical care division.

Monmouth’s NICU, which serves about 550 babies per year, added eight intensive care beds to make it a 31-bed unit. In addition to the beds, the center added eight upgraded monitors, new floors, a reception area and staff lounge.

The NICU treats premature infants, such as those with low birth weight, acute illness and congenital disorders, as well as those requiring emergency surgery. Each room is designed for family-centered care with soothing colors, dim lighting and quiet comfort.

Even adding individual lockers boosted staff morale, according to Breslin.
“We had about 55 nurses here and 30 lockers,” he said. “It’s a smaller thing but it makes life a little bit easier.”

Planning for the expansion started years ago. Nurse input was essential, in collaboration with neonatologists, in deciding where oxygen and suction outlets would be placed, how a kitchen would be set up and where sinks would go.
“It took weeks of team meetings,” said Breslin, who has worked in the Monmouth NICU for 17 years.

Expanding the Monmouth NICU was essential as its role grew as a regional newborn center for east and central New Jersey.

In 1968, Monmouth Medical Center, part of Barnabas Health, became the first hospital in New Jersey and the first community teaching hospital in the country to establish a NICU, according to Barnabas Health’s website.

Staff nurse Beth Zarraga, RN, BSN, said one of the greatest benefits of the expansion is the addition of lactation rooms. Previously, women sat together in one room to breastfeed, separated only by folding screens. Now there are five rooms with sinks, breast pumps and recliners. Extra rooms help with kangaroo care, where parents can relax in recliners and with their babies via skin-to-skin contact.
“It used to be three babies in isolettes next to each other” with no room in between, Zarraga said. Now parents and clinicians can easily move around them.

“You are able to sit with the parents and answer their questions and basically give the time to them so they feel like they’re the only patients you have,” she said.

Marcia Frellick is a freelance writer.


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