The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) located at Centra Virginia Baptist Hospital (VBH) is celebrating its 50th Anniversary in November.
Today, Centra’s Level III NICU serves over 500 babies and families annually. Being a Level III NICU means that Centra’s NICU is equipped to care for infants who are born before 32 weeks of gestation, who weigh less 3.3 pounds at birth, or who have medical or surgical conditions regardless of their gestational age. The unit is staffed 24 hours a day by a team of three neonatologists, seven neonatal nurse practitioners, 42 nurses, four volunteer baby cuddlers, two health unit coordinators, and a parent educator. Some members of this team have worked in Centra’s NICU for over twenty years, having devoted their entire careers to caring for central Virginia’s tiniest patients.
Centra’s NICU also known as the Intensive Care Nursery (ICN) opened in November of 1972, and its first Medical Director was Dr. Peter W. Houck. When Centra’s NICU was founded, Dr. Houck was one of only three neonatologists practicing in Virginia. Dr. Houck and his team also went on to develop a neonatal transport van in 1973 that allowed premature infants to be transported from surrounding communities to the NICU in Lynchburg.
Serving as an extension of Centra’s NICU, this specially equipped neonatal van was the first neonatal ground transport system to be established on the East Coast. Over the last fifty years, Centra’s neonatal ground transport system has continued to evolve, and currently, NeoOne services an 8,000 square mile area that includes Bedford, Danville, Farmville, Gretna and Halifax.
Centra’s NICU is equipped with 16 neonatal beds and is outfitted with four pods that are specifically designed to treat infants experiencing neonatal abstinence syndrome. Each pod within the NICU is a quiet, partitioned area where a mother and baby can bond, and the baby can be kept calm to avoid over-stimulation.