Dr. Erick Ridout, medical director of Dixie Regional Medical Center’s newborn intensive care unit (NICU), said there are times when less is more. He points to the Institute of Medicine’s overarching six aims for improvement, which include “Healthcare must be safe,” “healthcare must be effective,” and “healthcare must be patient-centered.” In the NICU, that means “the emphasis is on awakening less, poking less, and doing less,” he said.
The imperical evidence is in babies cared for at Dixie Regional’s NICU which is ranked number one among all Intermountain Healthcare hospitals. Dixie Regional shows better outcomes than the majority of participating NICUs worldwide including those in major medical centers and teaching hospitals located in large metropolitan areas.
This is based upon data collected from more than 850 NICUs across the globe that participate in an international NICU benchmarking and quality improvement network. The NICUs’ extreme preterm babies, those born between 22 and 29 weeks, were evaluated based on 17 criteria.
Dr. Ridout explained how Dixie Regional achieved its results, “When we minimize the number of times we take blood and do lab tests, it improves eye and brain development.” In addition, it reduces the risk of newborns acquiring infections while in the NICU. “We don’t tolerate hospital-acquired infections,” he said, “period. That improves the outcome for our babies, and it saves resources.”
Of course, there are times when more is, well, more. More skin-to-skin contact and more time to bond with family is crucial in helping fragile babies thrive, and they are the mainstay of Dixie Regional’s NICU.
James and Leslie Courtright had this experience last fall when their twin girls, Yasmin and Sophia were born 11 weeks premature. “Our family spent 74 days in the NICU being shepherded through the most trying time of our lives by the most gentle and caring staff,” Leslie said. “Their support alleviated the stress of this difficult experience.”
Leslie said the doctors and nurses provided excellent physical and emotional support for the whole family. “I never wanted to be in the need to meet them, but now I’m so glad I did," she said. The care started before Yasmin and Sophia were born. “The staff stopped into the labor and delivery room. That set the tone for the level of care we’d be experiencing, " Leslie continued.
Later, when Sophia was ready to be discharged but her twin sister wasn't, NICU staff went out of their way to take care not only of Yasmin, but of the whole family. “We live in Virgin,” explained Leslie. “We were so worried about dividing our time between the girls. But the hospital was able to accommodate all of us in the pediatric unit so we could stay as a family.”
That intense family time was critical in Yasmin’s development, and may not have happened in an city.
Jeannette Cutner, NICU nurse manager said, “A lot of times the perception is that you have to go to a NICU at a tertiary hospital in a large metropolitan area for high-level care. We provide tertiary care in a community-based NICU setting and practice within a family-centered care model. Our patients are our neighbors, our friends, and our family," she said.
There is another huge bonus that comes with having the NICU available in St. George, according to Cutner. “Just the fact that families can stay closer to home is a big deal. Many of these families have other small children. So, with an NICU facility located in St. George, parents are able to take care of their baby in the hospital and go home and take care of their other family members. Mother and father have time to bond with their critically ill child and still provide a stable home front. That ability helps marriages and families survive," Cutner said.
As the regional population and the reputation of Dixie’s NICU have grown, the unit has had the opportunity and obligation to treat more critically ill infants from communities farther and farther away, so much so that the NICU’s current space is too small to accommodate the increasing demand for care.
The Foundation of Dixie Regional Medical Center has announced that the 2011 Jubilee of Trees will be “giving new life to the holidays” by raising funds to help expand children’s services at Dixie Regional Medical Center, including the NICU.
All of this will help the NICU team continue to provide the kind of care that has been experienced by the Courtrights and countless other Dixie Regional newborn intensive care unit graduates and their families.