Bellin Health Care Systems, Green Bay, Wisconsin

Bellin Hospital Opens Family Integrated NICU

‘Couplet care’ unit offers numerous benefits, is first of its kind in Wisconsin

Bellin Hospital is now treating newborns who need a higher level of care at their mothers’ sides with a first-in-Wisconsin Family Integrated Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) that opened in January.

Bellin’s new NICU is the first in the state and one of only a handful in the nation to offer NICU “couplet care” suites that are quiet, private and spacious, allowing mom and baby to be cared for together (as a couplet) in their room during their entire stay — rather than baby being transferred to a separate NICU nursery with multiple patients. Bellin’s new NICU has 14 private suites, spaces that are specially designed to allow for and encourage parents to stay with their baby and to be central to their baby’s care. The unit also is designed to provide an environment that is proven to promote optimal brain development and healing.

“This state-of-the-art approach to NICU care has numerous benefits for the baby and family, including earlier bonding and breastfeeding success, increasing confidence for parents and reducing length of stay,” said Deborah Fischer, Bellin Health Vice President for OB/GYN and Neonatology. “Opening this unit when we did took on additional importance due to the most recent surge of COVID-19, as these private suites allow for improved social distancing and a reduced chance of infection for babies and families. It’s a ‘start together, stay together’ approach that will offer countless advantages for the patients we are privileged to serve.”

Among the NICU’s state-of-the-art features is circadian lighting that is specially designed to help regulate circadian rhythms for pre-term infants who may struggle to establish these patterns. The suites include nurse and provider work stations that allow the mother and baby’s care team to closely but unobtrusively monitor what is happening with the patients, allowing them to quickly respond to any need the baby or family may have. 

In addition to Bellin’s state-of-the-art family suites, the new NICU includes a spacious and relaxing family room with an outdoor patio space that undoubtedly will get a lot of use when the weather warms up. It all adds up to a second-to-none experience for the babies and families Bellin serves.
Construction of Bellin’s new NICU has taken place at a time of high COVID-19 and overall hospital volumes as the health system continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic. Bellin began offering specialized respiratory support (CPAP) for babies in November, leading to a higher NICU census and a greater need for the expanded space.

“It’s been a busy time at Bellin as we continue to coexist with COVID amid a consistently high hospital census,” Fischer said. “Yet these miracle babies keep arriving, and we know the best way we can care for them and their families is in this beautiful, state-of-the-art new space. We knew it was important to keep this project moving for the benefit of our littlest patients and the families who love them.”

Bellin Health is celebrating its new NICU virtually for now, and an online Open House for donors was held last week. General information on the new NICU is available at bellin.org/nicu, while information for donors is available at infullembracebellin.org.