Seattle Children’s receives designation as first Level IV neonatal intensive care unit in Washington

The Washington State Department of Health has designated the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Seattle Children’s Hospital as a Level IV regional NICU, which is the highest level of care available for critically ill newborns. Seattle Children’s is the first hospital in Washington state to receive this designation.

The new designation of Seattle Children’s NICU follows the recent revision of the state’s Perinatal and Neonatal Level of Care Guidelines by the Department of Health in February 2013. The revision is in line with the updated American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) standards for NICUs that were outlined in September 2012.

The guidelines define four levels of care: normal newborn nursery (level I), special care nursery for premature and mildly ill newborns (level II), neonatal intensive care for very premature and critically ill newborns that sometimes offer select surgical procedures (level III), and regional NICU with comprehensive services to treat all medical and surgical problems of newborns (level IV).

Caring for complex newborns

Seattle Children’s 19-bed level IV NICU receives patients from nearly all the level III NICUs in Washington and Montana. These are exceptionally complex patients who need unique or rarely-performed medical or surgical procedures, such as extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, renal dialysis, tracheostomy and repair of spina bifida.

“We are pleased to be the first hospital in Washington to receive the Level IV NICU designation as it reflects the highest level of specialized neonatal care and services in the state,” said Sandy Melzer, MD, senior vice president of Seattle Children’s. “Seattle Children’s is committed to providing high-quality, family-centered care and we are proud that our skilled, multi-disciplinary neonatal team is equipped to handle the most complex patients.”

Seattle Children’s NICU offers advanced modes of imaging as well as the state’s most experienced specialists in neonatal nursing, respiratory care, nutrition, pharmacy, physical therapy and all medical and surgical subspecialities – all available 24/7. Under the new guidelines, NICUs with a Level IV designation must meet all Level III capabilities, as well as:

  • Be located within an institution with the capability to provide surgical repair of complex congenital or acquired conditions.
  • Maintain a full range of pediatric medical subspecialists, pediatric surgical subspecialists and pediatric anesthesiologists that are available at the site 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Seattle Children’s Neonatology program is nationally recognized, ranking as one of the best programs in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report. Patients and families come to Seattle Children’s NICU from all over Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho. The hospital’s specialists perform more complex surgeries and heart procedures in newborns than in all the other hospitals in Washington combined. Each year, Seattle Children’s NICU cares for almost 500 of the most complex premature and critically ill newborns in the state. Patients have access to cutting-edge clinical research trials by some of the nation’s leading physician-scientists. Seattle Children’s Neonatology is also a leader in service for families of their NICU patients, such as transportation, lodging and financial support.

Seattle Children’s is also committed to providing access to outstanding Neonatology care in level III NICUs throughout the region, so newborns can receive advanced medical care closer to home. Seattle Children’s Neonatology cares for patients in NICUs at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, Overlake Medical Center in Bellevue, Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland and St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma.

To arrange an interview with a member of our Neonatology team, contact the media relations team at 206-987-4500 or [email protected].