Neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) in Denver

After they are born, some babies need extra special, neonatal intensive care. In these cases, our hospital NICUs offer the largest and most comprehensive pool of neonatal resources in the region. They are staffed with extensively-trained medical teams who specialize in the treatment of premature and ill newborn babies. This care includes appropriate equipment, technology and access to sub-specialist pediatricians who treat babies with specific or unusual conditions.

To learn more about HealthONE's NICUs and neonatal services, call us at (303) 575-0055.

Understanding what a NICU is and does

A NICU (sometimes referred to as an "intensive care nursery") is a medical area of a hospital. It is staffed by neonatal doctors and clinicians and equipped with specialized medical equipment, such as incubators. Your baby may need to be admitted to a NICU if they have had to undergo fetal or neonatal surgery, been born prematurely or have certain congenital defects or medical conditions.

NICUs are designated as various "levels" depending on the type of care they can provide. Levels range from I (basic care) to Level IV (advanced care). Regardless of the level, the goal of a NICU is to get your baby well as quickly as possible.


Level IV NICU in Denver

HealthONE's Level II and Level III NICUs work closely with our Level IV NICU at the Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children at Presbyterian/St. Luke's Medical Center—the largest NICU in Colorado. If your baby needs a higher level of care than we can provide at our Level II or Level III NICUs, we will transfer them rapidly to this Level IV NICU so they can get the care they need.

Features of our Level IV NICU

  • Free WiFi
  • Kangaroo care (skin-to-skin bonding)
  • Lactation support
  • NICU CPR and choking classes
  • Personal amenities, including laundry, showers and concierge services Private rooms
  • Ronald McDonald Family Room
  • Spacious waiting areas
  • Support team, which includes a parent educator, social worker, psychologist, case manager, care coordinator and chaplain

Level III NICUs in Central, East and South Denver

The Medical Center of Aurora, Rose Medical Center, Sky Ridge Medical Center and Swedish Medical Center offer Level III NICUs—some of the highest levels of care for newborns and young babies.

Features of our Level III NICUs include:

  • Care for premature infants as early as 32 weeks gestation and low birth-weight babies who are seriously ill
  • Life-support equipment, including mechanical ventilation, to help your baby as long as needed before they can breathe and thrive on their own
  • Neonatal staff available 24/7

Call the numbers below to learn more about our Level III NICUs:

Level II NICU in North Denver

North Suburban Medical Center offers a Level II NICU that is conveniently accessible to the Thornton, Westminster, Federal Heights and North Denver areas.

This NICU provides:

  • Care for infants who are feeding and growing stronger after a stay in intensive care
  • Care for premature infants as early as 32 weeks gestation and low birth-weight babies who are moderately ill
  • Mechanical ventilation for a brief time or continuous positive airway pressure

For more information about the NICU at North Suburban Medical Center, call (303) 920-4362.

Our family-focused NICU features and services

Our state-of-the-art NICUs offer family-style designs and flexible visiting hours. In many cases, parents are also able to room with their newborn as an added opportunity to bond.

Other special features of our NICUs may include:

  • A Newborn Individualized Developmental Care and Assessment Program (NIDCAP) with the aid of a trained developmental specialist
  • Car-seat fitting appointments
  • Designated family waiting area
  • Infant rooms that accommodate the family to stay at the bedside as much as they desire
  • Kangaroo care ("skin-to-skin bonding") support
  • Lactation support and resources, including lactation consultants, donor breast milk options, refrigerators, bottle warmers and breast pumps designed to increase milk production
  • NICU CPR and choking classes
  • NICU Graduate Reunions (an event for families to spend time with their baby’s caregivers and visit with other NICU graduates and their families)
  • NICView baby cams for live video monitoring
  • Personal amenities (e.g., laundry services and showers)
  • Ronald McDonald Family Rooms
  • Rooms capable of holding twins and triplets
  • Secure unit to ensure safety
  • Specialized beds designed to transfer your baby anywhere in the hospital while remaining in the bed and, in some cases, beds transform from incubators into cribs
  • State-of-the-art monitors and ventilators
  • Treatment for neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) (issues stemming from infants who were exposed to opioids while in the womb)

The Ronald McDonald Family Room

Several of our hospitals offer Ronald McDonald Family Rooms as a "home away from home" right inside the hospital. This allows parents to better communicate with their child's medical team, alleviates stress and helps with coping.

Features and services of the Ronald McDonald Family Rooms include:

  • Hot food and snacks
  • Internet access
  • Kitchenette that includes microwave, oven and refrigerator
  • Quiet reflection area
  • Seating area with a television
  • Shower facilities
  • Utility room with washer and dryer
  • Volunteer staff available daily

Our neonatal experts

Our NICU teams come together to provide comprehensive care and help your baby get home as quickly as possible. This team may include:

  • Board-certified neonatologists (neonatal doctors)
  • Chaplains
  • Clinical nurse specialists
  • Developmental therapy specialists (who help evaluate neurodevelopmental behavior and progress, including motor, feeding and interaction capabilities)
  • Hospitalists trained in pediatric care
  • Lactation specialists
  • Neonatal nurse practitioners and registered nurses
  • Nutritionists
  • Occupational therapists (who help baby’s muscles work properly)
  • Pharmacists
  • Respiratory therapists
  • Social workers

You will also be an important member of your baby’s NICU team, offering love and comfort to your newborn to promote healing and bonding. We will work with you and your family to accomplish this, involving you every step of the way.

Key NICU terminology

While your child is with us, we hope you feel comfortable asking our staff about anything you do not understand. To help, here are some common NICU terms you may hear:

  • Apnea—breathing stops for more than 15 seconds
  • Blood gases—checked for levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide
  • Blood sugar (glucose)—checked for proper balance
  • Bradycardia—slow heartbeat
  • Catheter—small, thin plastic tube used to give or remove fluids
  • C-PAP (continuous positive airway pressure)—air given through two small tubes just inside the nose
  • Developmental care—special attention to baby’s stage of development and ability to tolerate activity
  • Endotracheal tube—small tube used to connect baby’s lungs to a "breathing machine" or ventilator
  • Gavage feeding—small tube in the nose or mouth that delivers food to the stomach or intestines
  • High-frequency ventilation—special "breathing machine" or ventilator that "breathes" for baby at a very fast rate
  • Incubator or "isolette"—clear plastic bed for baby with a special warming system
  • Jaundice—temporary yellow color of skin and eyes usually due to an immature liver
  • Kangaroo care—special way to hold baby, bundled in a blanket or shirt and placed on mom’s or dad’s bare chest
  • Meconium—dark green, gooey stool, which is baby’s first bowel movement
  • Phototherapy—blue fluorescent light used to treat jaundice
  • Premature—infants born before 37 weeks of gestation
  • Pulse oximeter—measures oxygen in the blood
  • Radiant warmer—special bed with an overhead heater to keep baby warm
  • Respiratory distress syndrome (RDS)—serious breathing problem that mainly affects babies born prematurely
  • Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)—virus that can cause severe breathing problems in very young babies
  • Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP)—eye disorder in babies born prematurely that can lead to vision loss or blindness
  • Sepsis—widespread infection in the blood
  • Surfactant—substance in the lungs that helps keep the small air sacks from collapsing
  • Tachycardia—fast heartbeat
  • Ultrasound—test that uses sound waves on the outside of the body to produce a picture of the inside
  • Ventilator ("respirator")—machine to help baby's breathing

Clean Hands Campaign

Ensuring everyone near your baby has clean hands is instrumental in providing safe care for your child. This is why we implement a "Clean Hands Campaign," which encourages visiting parents and staff to:

  • Keep your nails clean and trimmed to a quarter inch or less
  • Remove all jewelry (including fitness trackers) below the elbows
  • Remove any artificial and/or acrylic nails, including shellac, gel and dip nail polish, and ensure other nail polish is in good condition and not chipping
  • Remove your parent ID band if you are no longer an inpatient (keep it in a safe place)
  • Roll your sleeves up above your elbows
  • Use an alcohol wipe to clean your phone before bringing it into the NICU
  • Wash your hands every time you enter the NICU (staff can inform you of the best places to do this near the NICU)
  • Remember to clean your hands:
    • Always after you touch your phone
    • After blowing your nose, sneezing or coughing
    • After touching the incubator or bedside tables
    • After using the restroom
    • Before touching your mouth, nose or eyes
    • Before eating, drinking or taking medications
    • Before touching wounds, dressings or procedure sites
    • Any other time they look dirty or are potentially unclean

We also empower you to ask your caregivers to maintain proper hand sanitation. At any time, please feel comfortable reminding all staff (including doctors, nurses, therapists and anyone else providing care to your baby) about the Clean Hands Campaign guidelines.