In the NICU - step-down care
Most babies leave the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and grow into normal, healthy children. Some leave the NICU with temporary or chronic medical conditions that may require special attention from their parents or care givers.
When a NICU baby is better and stronger, he will graduate from the NICU. That means he is:
• Probably breathing on his own
• Possibly starting to feed from the breast or bottle
• Gaining weight
• Getting stronger
This little guy is almost ready to go home—but not quite. He is now ready to move to the “step-down” or intermediate-care nursery for some additional recovery time. The step-down nursery may be in the same hospital as the NICU, although not every NICU has one. Sometimes babies are transferred to a community hospital closer to home. That process is often referred to as back-transport. The baby’s doctors will discuss any transfer plans with his parents in advance. If they and the baby’s doctors decide this is right for him, the baby probably will be moved in an ambulance. It may take a few days for the baby to adjust to a transfer.
Although parents are happy their baby is getting better, they may be more than a little nervous about leaving the familiar staff and routines of the NICU. A visit to the step-down nursery before their baby is moved may help ease their concerns. The step-down nursery will get parents to become more directly involved with their baby’s care, while still having staff expertise readily available when needed. It can be a very reassuring experience.
The step-down nursery is usually quieter and a lot calmer than the NICU. There are fewer machines because these babies no longer require the type of intensive care the NICU provides. Babies need fewer tests now. But they still need a lot of care and rest to continue to grow and recover. The transition made in the step-down unit is a rehearsal of sorts. It brings a family to the point of being ready to go home.