NBICUs at Valley Baptist-Brownsville, Harlingen care for tiny patients

Tammy Lee, Pixabay

With September serving as Newborn Intensive Care Unit Awareness Month, expectant mothers should know that expert teams at Valley Baptist Health System are standing by if their childbirth experience is anything other than routine.

Valley Baptist Medical Center-Brownsville and Valley Baptist Medical Center-Harlingen each have Level III NBICUs ready to care for the region’s tiniest and most vulnerable patients.

According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, to be certified as a Level III NBICU by the state, a facility must provide care for mothers and comprehensive care of their infants of all gestational ages with mild to critical illnesses or requiring sustained life support in addition to providing consultation to a wide array of pediatric sub specialists and pediatric surgical specialists.

Valley Baptist-Brownsville’s 32-bedNBICU was designated the county’s first Level III NBICU in mid-2018, and it is that high level of expertise that should put expectant mothers at ease as they prepare to deliver, said Valley Baptist Medical Center-Brownsville Children’s Services Director Ruth Mason.

“Our team is used to managing extremely premature infants. They are trained and conditioned to pick up on the neonate’s cues and respond to the needs that are presented,” she said. “As a skilled NBICU nurse, you have to be knowledgeable with best practice recommendations on management of the extremely low birthweight infants. NBICU nurses need to critically think about every intervention provided. It’s not easy.”

Mason said that while there are exceptional challenges associated with caring for the community’s tiniest patients, her staff includes nurses who are well-trained to appropriately deal with those challenges.

“I have seven nurses who are certified to provide critical care (NCC certified) in our NBICU. We have a good skill mix of tenured staff and new graduates learning the skill. Our tenured nurses serve as mentors and charge nurses,” she said. “NBICU nurses are dedicated, focused, and work hard to make sure we obtain the best outcomes for our patients and their families.

These babies are totally dependent on the care and skill of our staff. Babies can’t tell you they are not feeling well, and must be continuously assessed and monitored for a change in status.”

Mason said that the physicians who work in Valley Baptist-Brownsville’s NBICU play a critical role providing outstanding care to the region’s premature newborns and that it is truly a team effort that leads to positive outcomes.

“At Valley Baptist-Brownsville, we have 24-7 neonatal nurse practitioner/neonatologist coverage, and they are always ready to respond to the needs of the babies,” she said. “Our neonatologists, neonatal nurse practitioners, and nurses do amazing work and come together to make sure we provide optimal care. Caring for these neonates is a team effort and all the disciplines involved have genuine interest in best outcomes and providing the best care. We take pride in where we work and what we can accomplish together as a team, and we are focused on our outcomes with the intent to give these babies an opportunity to enjoy a life without medical concerns or needs.”

Rita Goodarzi, director of Valley Baptist-Harlingen’s 38-bed NBICU, said her unit plays a vital role for the Harlingen community and its outlying areas.

“It is very important to have a neonatal unit capable of caring for the tiniest of patients in the community. When a baby is born premature or sick, the initial management of the baby can determine how the baby progresses,” she said. “Having an accredited Level III NBICU in Harlingen means that the baby can stay here close to family, even if they are premature, or sick, and receive the excellent care that they need.”

Like at Valley Baptist-Brownsville, Goodarzi said that experience and high-level expertise are hallmarks of the Valley Baptist-Harlingen NBICU.

“We have a full team that can respond to any neonatal problem at any time. We have two board-certified neonatologists, full-time and part-time neonatal nurse practitioners, a full staff of neonatal-trained registered nurses, and more,” she said. “The majority of our nursing and respiratory staff members have been working in our unit for more than 10 years, and many of them have more than 20 years of experience in the neonatal field.”

Whether their premature babies are being treated at Valley Baptist-Harlingen or Valley Baptist-Brownsville, Goodarzi said local parents can count on safe, compassionate care.

“Our NBICUs are a family. We work together, and take care of each other while we care for our tiny patients,” she said. “We don’t consider parents to be visitors in our unit, we want them to feel like it is their home and they are an important part of the care team for their baby.”