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Special Care Nursery now providing care to babies 33 weeks gestation and above

As of April 1, 2023, Skagit Valley Hospital’s Level II Special Care Nursery is now providing care to babies 33 weeks gestation and above. The scope of care was previously 34 weeks gestation. This is an achievement that has been 12 years in the making.

Skagit Regional Health - Pediatric Partnerships

The neonatal intensive care team began talking about expanding their scope of care when the 24/7 inpatient pediatric hospitalist service began in 2011 as part of a program partnership with Seattle Children’s. Having a pediatrician present in the hospital at all times means safer deliveries and resuscitations, allowing the team to watch and manage babies as they worked through difficult birth transitions. This was the first necessary step needed to begin working towards expanding the scope of care.

Since then, the team has been making necessary changes in their nursery services to prepare for caring for babies born at 33 weeks. The most notable changes include adding non-invasive respiratory support (High Flow Nasal Cannula Oxygen and nasal CPAP), neonatal telemedicine support and rounding, hiring more nurses to work specifically in the Special Care Nursery and robust nursing training.

“We love the idea that we will be able to keep more families close to their premature babies while they recover and grow. Our team enjoys caring for our nursery patients and we are committed to the concept of providing quality care, close to home,” said Dr. Jenny Taylor, Co-Medical Director of Pediatric Hospital Medicine at SVH. “While it’s taken a while, we have been patient. This is important to do well and we’ve waited until the entire hospital is ready. We think that time is now.”

This new scope of care will bring great changes for families who deliver at the SVH Family Birth Center. Mothers who come to the birth center in preterm labor will be able to deliver here if needed. This means fewer mothers will need to be transferred out to other hospitals for preterm labor and fewer babies will need to be transferred. The new scope also allows for the neonatal intensive care team to provide care for critically ill newborns without transporting them to a higher level ICU. These changes will allow for quality care, close to home - reducing stress for both the babies and their families.

The Special Care Nursery is not stopping there. Now that this has been accomplished, the team is working towards a new goal of caring for babies 32 weeks gestation and up. “Our plan is to drop to 33 weeks and have success with this change before we add the final group of patients that the state of Washington says belong in a Level II Nursery,” said Dr. Taylor. “Our preliminary timeline is 18-24 months from now. This will depend on how many babies 33 weeks gestation we are able to care for in the coming months.”