Diane Moskal waited 14 years to see new parents and their babies get some sunshine.
Moskal is retired now, having worked for 37 years at Beaumont Hospital in Troy, where she ended her full-time tenure as the clinical nurse manager of the neonatal intensive care unit and pediatrics. But on June 7, she was on hand to see a group of parents “parade” their babies into the new unit — and out of the old.
“It’s exciting because it needed to happen,” she says.
The hospital’s old NICU, she says, was in desperate need of updating. There were no windows, no natural light, no privacy for new (not to mention worried) mothers to learn how to breastfeed, let alone just be alone with their newborns. If parents wanted to stay overnight near their baby, they had to hope that a nearby hospital room was open.
Such issues aren’t uncommon for older NICUs, she says.
Now, the new $8 million NICU at Beaumont has a parents’ lounge, showers, state-of-the-art equipment, and, perhaps most important of all, 25 private and semiprivate rooms — all with windows — where parents can stay with their babies 24/7.
The emphasis of the new NICU isn’t just the physical health of the babies but the emotional and mental well-being of the babies and their parents.
“It’s what we call patient-family-centered care,” says Tedra Boedigheimer, director of nursing for women’s and children’s services at Beaumont Health.
A 2020 study in The Journal of Pediatrics looked at 331 NICUs and found that only 13.3 percent offered infant-parent rooms and that such rooms correlated with lower morbidity and sickness rates and faster recovery times. A 2017 article in the journal said the direct maternal contact that such rooms provide was the “secret sauce” to ensuring positive long-term outcomes for infants.
Jeremy and Melissa Livingston can attest to that.
The Livingstons were the first family to experience the new NICU with their baby, Roman.
A case of preeclampsia sent Melissa to the hospital, resulting in an induced delivery five weeks before her due date, which caused Roman to be born with lungs that weren’t fully developed.
That was in May, before the new NICU was open. She described the old NICU as “not private,” saying that it felt “even dark when the lights were on.” The care, she says, was top notch, but the environment was not ideal.
When they transferred to their new room with a view of a golf course, everything changed.
“You walk into this place and it’s like you’re at the Hilton,” Melissa says during Hour’s interview and tour of the NICU. Melissa and Jeremy sat in the two reclining chairs in the room, turned inward toward each other with a small table between them, looking like a corner of any living room aside from the fact that they faced a baby’s incubator. The chairs recline so that parents can sleep in the same room as their babies each night.
That closeness to their baby — as well as the simple addition of a window — was everything, Jeremy says.
“There’s sunlight and there’s greenery and there’s clouds. And when he [Roman] came into the new NICU was when his progress really took off,” he says.
The new NICU also features a parents’ lounge with some couches, a TV, and a full kitchen stocked with snacks and coffee.
“It’s good for them to get away. It’s a little serene area in there,” Boedigheimer says.
Plans for the new NICU began in 2008 but were paused due to the recession. The idea didn’t pick back up until 2017, with plans to build the new space in 2020 before COVID-19 brought them to a halt. Finally, as the pandemic began to wane, Moskal was able to see the vision she’d helped form come to fruition. Moskal still works part time in the unit — alongside her successor as clinical nurse manager, Bridget Poley, who also witnessed the transition of families from the old NICU to the new.
“Seeing the families react to it,” Poley says, “it is amazing.”