Aisha Purnell, RN, Maternity Unit
The Chester County Hospital and Health System

Published: June 25, 2012

When choosing where to deliver a baby, parents need to consider a hospital's clinical safety and multiple security features for newborns as the top priority in their decision. As you enter into a new world of parenting, you may be wondering what's important and how to find out what safety measures are in place. Here are a few key indicators of newborn safety that should be at the forefront of your decision making.

The most important amenity is that the hospital has a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), and that the NICU is accredited to provide the highest level of care as determined by the Pennsylvania Department of Health. A Level III NICU is the highest accreditation offered in Chester County, which means the unit is equipped and capable of handling the most complex medical situations and any respiratory issue for viable infants 24 weeks gestation or greater. There are Neonatologists or Neonatal Nurse Practitioners in house and on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. These safety features will be extremely important if you have a high-risk, complicated pregnancy, or if you find yourself having a premature infant, or if your baby has unexpected urgent medical needs during birth. If a hospital cannot accommodate the critical clinical needs of an infant, the baby would be transferred to a different hospital with a higher level NICU for care. (The mother would stay at the delivering hospital until she was discharged.)

Second, you want to make sure that there is a secured well-baby nursery in the maternity unit. After delivering and welcoming a new little one into your world, you may need some assistance throughout the night and you may want some time to recover after a delivery or a cesarean section. A well-baby nursery has nurses who specifically care for the infants. This feature will give you peace of mind knowing that if you need some extra medical attention or just some time to recharge before being discharged, that your baby is in good nursing hands.

Third, you want to make sure the hospital has multiple types of security features to protect the infants so they stay safely within the unit. The hospital should have security bracelets that are programmed into a computer and alarmed if they get too loose, fall off or are removed. The alarm system should have lights that flash to visually notify the nurses as well. Maternity units should be locked and have security cameras that allow the nurses to see and control who comes in and out of the unit. They should have a phone outside the unit so that all visitors must call the nurses station for access. The hospital should have a system for making sure the nurses hand you the correct infant each time they come into your room. They should match identification bracelets with the parents and/or use a card system. All nurses and employees who work specifically for maternity, the well-baby nursery or NICU, should have special identification badges differentiating them from all other employees at the hospital.

These three major points are a must in choosing a hospital, but how do you find out about a hospital's newborn safety measures? As you are pre-planning your pregnancy, you can call the various hospitals and talk with a representative of the Maternity Unit. You can ask your Obstetrician or your birth instructor when you go for your appointments, attend prenatal classes or take a tour. The doctors, nurses and educators would be more than happy to answer any questions you have to give you peace of mind that your newborn's health and safety are as important to the hospital as they are to you.

This article was published as part of the Daily Local News Medical Column series which appears every Monday. It has been reprinted by permission of the Daily Local News.

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