Intensive Labor

In the hospital neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), nurses can make big differences in tiny babies’ lives. They are also on the front line of the battle to reduce lethal hospital-acquired infections. In a study of 104 hospital NICUs, researchers defined the problems that arise from inadequate support for nurses in the NICU and made the following recommendations to hospital CEOs:

  • Fully staff the NICU so that nurses are not pulled away from critically-ill infants to answer the phone, including having more RNs, a one-to-one patient-nurse ratio and secretarial support staff, even at night and on the weekend.
  • Assure that inexperienced, young nurses are always supervised by more seasoned nurses.
  • Work with managers to create a professional atmosphere in the NICU so that nurses, who provide most of the hands-on care, and doctors work together as a team. Encourage nurses to speak up when they have concerns about a patient and not hesitate to call in a doctor.

Such measures will result in fewer infections and fewer NICU complications, such as bleeding in the brain that are expensive for the hospital to treat, especially as Medicaid and other payers refuse to reimburse for preventable errors.