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Supporting the tiniest patients – Billings Clinic building new Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

Posted at 1:51 PM, Aug 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-06 15:51:16-04

The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Billings Clinic already provides outstanding care. It has an expertly trained, compassionate and experienced staff to make sure newborns who need an extra level of care get what they need.

The NICU, the space where that care happens, has aged and is in drastic need of an update. Space is tight, with no private rooms. There is no natural light and parents must leave the NICU just to use the bathroom.

With that in mind, the Billings Clinic is building a brand new 14,000-square-foot NICU so that the space matches the incredible care from the team there and provides the tiniest patients and their families with a more spacious, modern, comfortable and private space.

The Billings Clinic NICU opened 22 years ago and since then technology and the delivery of care have changed dramatically. One of the biggest changes over the years has been the increasing integration of families into the care of their babies. There is evidence that parents are critically important to a baby’s wellbeing while in the NICU and when they are present, the outcomes are improved, costs are reduced, and there is greater parent and staff satisfaction.

The infants cared for today are more unstable and critically ill than in the past. The smallest among them stay for an average of 90 to 100 days, and 25 percent of the babies come to Billings Clinic through the transport of its highly trained MedFlight team.

The most common reasons babies are admitted to the NICU include premature birth, respiratory distress, hypoglycemia, and neonatal abstinence syndrome, which is when a baby is withdrawing from certain drugs they were exposed to in the womb prior to birth. The specially trained staff at Billings Clinic’s NICU, on-site 24 hours a day, includes four neonatologists, neonatal nurses, pediatric specialists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, pharmacist, lactation consultants, and respiratory therapists.

Today, care areas are stationed in open bays with curtains without internal walls and doors, which makes noise very difficult to control. Privacy during this challenging time for families is minimal, and there is no natural light given the NICU’s current location in the center of the Family Birth Center. Supplies and equipment are often stored away from the NICU, as there is not adequate storage space in the unit. This lack of space has the greatest impact on the parents, making it difficult comfortably stay with their sick child and requiring them to leave the unit for a break or to get a drink of water.

The Billings Clinic Foundation has undertaken a $3.5 million capital campaign to help build this new NICU, which will be completed in 2022. Funds raised will help to create a greatly improved patient and family experience, bring in natural lighting to promote healing, enhance patient and family privacy, create dedicated family space for overnight stays with a private restroom, outfit the NICU with updated technology and equipment, and build space for supplies and equipment.

To support Billings Clinic’s smallest patients and the construction of a new NICU, call Billings Clinic Foundation at 406-657-4670 or go to www.billingsclinicfoundation.com.

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