NICU Only One in Jersey to Earn Award for Excellence

July 25, 2014

Like so many first-time parents, Anthony and Lisa Nardino anticipated with joy and excitement the birth of their first children,a twin boy and girl. Complications arose whenlabor started two months early. Thanks to the great work of Saint Peter’s high risk team, two small and fragile babies were delivered safely.Anthony David and Chiara Francesca spent a month and a half in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at The Children’s Hospital at Saint Peter’s University Hospital.“

 Although our pregnancy was high risk, we felt particularly secure knowing the excellent reputation of Saint Peter’s NICU. Now we can speak from experience that the NICU is truly awesome and a gift to parents whose children need special care after birth,” says Lisa Nardino.“We feel blessed and grateful that Anthony and Chiara are now thriving at home with us.” 

 After several weeks in the nationally recognized NICU, they were released after they had gained weight and become stronger. 

 The Nardino children are among the nearly 6,000 babies born every year at Saint Peter’s University Hospital, more than 500 of them low-birth-weight babies. The hospital welcomes more newborns than any other hospital in New Jersey. Most require only a brief stay, usually while their mothers are here, but some babies must remain for a longer period. When this isnecessary, they are treated in the NICU. TheAmerican Association of Critical Care Nursesrecently awarded Saint Peter’s NICU theSilver Beacon Award for Excellence. The unit is the only NICU in New Jersey to achieve this honor and one of only five in the country to earn this distinction for providing exceptional care to infants.  

 Licensed for 54 bassinets, the unit provides the most comprehensive neonatal care in the state for newborns and infants with medical or surgical problems. 

 “The Beacon Award is an external validation of the quality of care and caring provided by our NICU nurses on a daily basis,” says Elizabeth Wykpisz, RN, MSN, MBA,NEA-BC, chief nursing officer and vice president, Patient Care Services. “This is anoutcomes based award, whererecognition is provided basedon measurements that assessour quality of care.”

The NICU at Saint Peter’s is part of New Jersey’sfirst state-designated Regional Perinatal Center.The Regional Perinatal Center at Saint Peter’s,designated in 1981, is renowned throughoutthe state for the exceptional level of high-riskmaternity and neonatal care provided. Board-certified physicians and specialized staff care forwomen experiencing high-risk pregnancies andinfants born premature or with serious medicalissues.“Our NICU has the most sophisticated andmodern technology, but it is the people whowork here that make it extraordinary,” says MarkHiatt, MD, chief of Neonatology at Saint Peter’s. 

In addition to state-of-the art medical expertise,the babies in the NICU receive care that is family-centered, ensuring that the best, the most individualized and extremely personal care possible. Parents and grandparents visit the unit and are actively involved in care that includes giving the children the skin-to-skin time needed for a baby’s well-being and for psychological bonding between caregiver and child.  

The unit is staffed 24 hours-a-day by a board certified neonatologist, nurse practitioners, a physician assistant, registered nurses, respiratory therapists, and a neonatal-trained pharmacist,a board certified specialist in pediatric nutrition, and a social worker. Also available on call 24 hours-a-day are specialists in multiple pediatric specialties. Primary care nurses are assigned full-time to children whether they area dmitted for a few days or months.

Thanks to a generous donation from The Provident Bank Foundation, Saint Peter’s is the first hospital in New Jersey to provide parents and loved ones with the ability to see their children in real-time 24 hours-a-day via a secure online portal on their smartphones, computers and other mobile devices. This spring all bassinets in the NICU were equipped with a camera.

 Recently Saint Peter’s became the only hospital in New Jersey currently with a protocol for the use of Prolact+, a milk product that, when added to mom’s milk, provides the nutrients a baby needs to develop while avoiding serious complications. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends human milk for all infants, and especially those with low-birth-weight. For very premature babies, breast milk alone cannot provide what a preterm baby needs to grow as it would in the womb. The milk needs to be enriched with a fortifier, typically made from cow’s milk.  

The new product Saint Peter’s is using is made from banked, pasteurized human milk. The results of a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics  demonstrate that extremely premature infants who are fed an exclusive human milk diet instead of preterm formula have a significantly lower incidence of surgery associated with the intestinal disease necrotiz-ing enterocolitis (NEC) and require fewer days of intravenous feedings through total parenteral nutrition (TPN), when compared to infants receiving cow milk-based fortifier, or when mother’s own milk was unavailable. 

The NICU also utilizes the most advanced therapies using state-of-the-art technologies. These include high frequency jet ventilation, and high frequency oscillators which help babies without stressing the lungs, and brain cooling, a treatment that only recently became available to stop the damage caused by asphyxia or lack of oxygen to the brain. The NICU became one of the first to offer this procedure in 2011.

The Saint Peter’s NICU was one of the first in New Jersey to evaluate the use of surfactant therapy, which is now routinely used to treat breathing problems in premature babies. “Because the NICU has attending neo-natologists and highly skilled in-house staff coverage 24 hours-a-day, 7 days-a-week, we can assure families that their children are getting the best care available anywhere,” says Dr. Hiatt.

 To learn more about the NICU at Saint Peter’s visit To find a doctor affiliated with Saint Peter’s call 1-855-SP-MY-DOC (1-855-776-9362)or visit

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