A sprawling, 2-story ‘treehouse’ has taken shape atop Akron Children’s new Kay Jewelers Pavilion, providing a peaceful, medically-advanced oasis for the tiniest and most fragile babies.
The thoughtful design of our new Women’s Board of Children’s Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit creates tranquil privacy where parents and babies can bond and babies thrive.
Occupying the 6th and 7th floors of Kay Jewelers Pavilion, the NICU opens May 5.
“With the help of patient families and staff, we tried to design a space that could support the whole family – from rooms with a window and sound isolation to an on-site play area and laundry facility,” said Chris Young, director of nursing, neonatal services at Akron Children’s. “The design really promotes quality contact between family and baby, which helps baby’s development so she can get home sooner.”
Helping baby thrive
A baby born at 28 weeks can hear her parent’s voice but her underdeveloped neurological system will cause her to startle at loud external noises and show outward signs of stress.
“A key component to the design of this space was making sure each baby and family had a quiet place to learn and grow,” said Young. “Our single rooms not only reduce noise and distractions, but also provide much needed privacy for breastmilk feeding and skin-to-skin care to aid in bonding.”
Since parents are able to stay with baby around the clock, they’re also less likely to miss clinical discussions about their baby’s care plan and progress.
“Now parents are able to watch and learn how to care for their child every time a clinician visits their room day or night,” Young said. “This allows parents to become active participants in their baby’s care team sooner, which helps them gain confidence in their ability to care for baby at home.”
A baby’s swallow reflex develops at 34-35 weeks gestation so many premature babies need a feeding tube until they learn to eat by mouth.
To help with this transition, our new NICU features private lactation rooms where mom can learn how to breastfeed with consultation and care from our lactation specialists.
Another addition is an on-site milk lab. This central area allows mom to deposit and process breastmilk while staff maintains safe storage, identification and retrieval of breastmilk when baby needs it.
“Nutrition in fragile infants can be challenging so these new features really help us support mom in providing the best outcomes for baby’s nutritional status,” Young said. “The milk lab really allows us to support mom in providing the best outcomes for her baby’s nutritional status.”
“We currently see about 570 babies a year in our Level 3 NICU and that number continues to grow,” Young said. “Our newly designed space allows us to expand and add more rooms and services as our patient needs change. We’re excited to share this new space with babies and their families. It truly is a home-away-from-home that supports the whole family.”
As part of our year-long anniversary celebration, we’re telling the story of Akron Children’s through the eyes of past and present employees, doctors, donors, volunteers and patient families. We encourage you to share your own memories and stories about us.
About Suzi Schenkenberger
Suzi Schenkenberger is a freelance writer and public relations consultant. With more than 15 years experience, Suzi has written for local and national brands including GE, Diebold, Akron Children's Hospital and E.J. Thomas Performing Arts Hall.