NICU Standard 1: Unit Configuration

The NICU design shall be driven by systematically developed program goals and objectives that define the purpose of the unit, service provision, space utilization, projected bed space demand, staffing requirements and other basic information related to the mission of the unit. Design strategies to achieve program goals and objectives shall address the medical, developmental, educational, emotional, and social needs of infants, families and staff. The design shall allow for flexibility and creativity to achieve the stated objectives. 

The NICU shall contain sufficient single-family rooms to meet the needs of parents who expect to stay with their babies, including families of twins or higher-order multiples.

Interpretation: Program goals and objectives congruent with the philosophy of care and the unit’s definition of quality should be developed by a planning team.  This team should include, among others, health care professionals, families whose infants have experienced newborn intensive care, administrators and design professionals.

The program goals and objectives should include a description of those services necessary for the complete operation of the unit and address the potential need to expand services to accommodate increased demand. 

Choosing the appropriate mix of single-family rooms along with other patient bed arrangements (e.g., multiple-bed “open-bay” rooms, couplet care rooms) will require careful evaluation of these needs over the intended life-span of the NICU. Patient care spaces, whether single-family rooms or in groupings, should be configured in a way that promotes optimal monitoring, response by caregivers to patient and family needs, and social interaction.  The specific approaches to achieve individualized environments are addressed in subsequent sections.

Now that parental engagement has been understood as important to the infant’s well-being, a systematic approach to identifying parental needs and barriers to parental presence is essential.  In order to be present and functional, parents need (at a minimum) rest, good nutrition, psychosocial and educational support, access to social networks, and a way to address everyday needs efficiently. In the context of the NICU, that may translate into providing services like WiFi, access to laundry facilities, places to sleep, and on-site counseling.  

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