UT Medical Center Opens New Neonatal Unit

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Knoxville (WVLT) - The University of Tennessee Medical Center unveiled a new wing, five years in the making.

It's the first private room intensive care unit for sick babies in East Tennessee.

Medical Reporter Jessa Goddard takes you on a tour of the new NICU to show you what makes it so unique.

In the neonatal intensive care units, they weigh babies not in pounds, but in grams. These tiny babies are truly in the fight of their lives.

This first-of-its-kind facility in our region will help them recover, and go home, even faster.

It is a private room concept, focusing on one-on-one bedside time for families, limiting exposure from others and reducing environmental stress.

UT's new NICU is a 58 bed unit, which consists of 29 private bed rooms, and five rooms for twins.

What makes it stand out are innovative features like rubber floors to dampen sound, ceiling tiles which absorb sound and controlled lighting to keep bright light out of babies' eyes.

"After many, many studies that have been done across the United States, it was found that various environmental conditions such as sound, light, touch, can dramatically affect the development of a premature baby," says Janell Cecil from the Center for Women and Children's Heath.

Work stations allow doctors and nurses to continually monitor the babies, and make adjustments with minimal disruption.

"You can intubate the baby, do a procedure on the baby. Turn the baby back around without any stress, put the bed back together, then lower the top of the bed."

The Tom and Katherine Black NICU at UT treats more than 700 babies a year.

It's is a level three unit, meaning it will serve, on request, other hospitals throughout the region in caring for high-risk or complicated pregnancies and the care of critically-ill babies.

In addition to the sound-absorbing building materials we told you about, the new 32,000 square foot NICU area features a separate lounge for families and several work stations for staff.

Not to mention, original artwork depicting the landscape of East Tennessee.