Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital Celebrates 20 Years As A Level III NICU

Northwestern Medicine
Women's Health December 20, 2018

More than 8,300 babies have come through the doors of the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital since it became a Level III NICU 20 years ago. Babies like Paige Robertson of Warrenville, Illinois, who is one of the smallest patients to ever be cared for in the hospital’s NICU. 

“Paige was the size of a water bottle and only weighed .92 pounds,” says her mother, Amy Robertson, who underwent an urgent cesarean section (C-section) on Jan. 18 when she was 24 weeks and five days pregnant.

Without the C-section, Paige would have stopped receiving enough nutrients from her umbilical cord to survive. After being delivered by the highly trained maternal-fetal medicine team at Central DuPage Hospital, Paige spent nearly seven months in the NICU, being monitored for brain bleeds and infections.

“Paige had a lot of ‘moms and dads’ watching over her,” says Amy. “My husband and I spent so much time in the NICU that we all grew together with her. Everyone brought Paige to where she is today.”

In two decades, the Central DuPage Hospital NICU has grown from 12 to 35 beds, been remodeled twice, added cooling therapy and high-frequency ventilation (a mechanical ventilation that uses a respiratory rate as much as 900 breaths per minute). The NICU also has added many staff members and support specialties, including pediatric dietitians, pediatric pharmacists, child life staff, speech pathologists, music therapy, a cuddler program, social workers and more.

It’s the only NICU in the western suburbs with full-time onsite pediatric surgical support; the first non-academic NICU in the Chicago area with a transport team; and the only non-academic NICU in the U.S. with a Ronald McDonald House. The Central DuPage Hospital NICU has also been a leader in quality and safety.

“We were one of the first in the area to use bubble continuous positive airway pressure, a non-invasive ventilation technique for newborns with infant respiratory distress syndrome, and we subsequently taught many NICUs in the area how to use it,” says Jeffrey Loughead, MD, medical director, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital.

The NICU team also created a bundle of care practices to prevent ventilator-associated pneumonia. The bundle was presented and published by the Institute of Healthcare Improvement and has become the national standard across the U.S. Additionally, the team developed a multidisciplinary quality project to reduce accidental extubations in neonates, which was published in The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety and has since been cited in dozens of publications.

Sue Leston, RNC-NIC, a mentor to new NICU staff members, has been a nurse in the Central DuPage Hospital NICU for 31 years. The biggest change she has seen over the years is the increased use of technology, which has helped the team implement best practices on the smallest patients – including Paige.

“Although she was less than a pound, she was so perfect in her little state,” says Leston. “The care we provide to our patients and their families is close to our hearts.”

Many of the staff members stay in touch with patients and families through the years, and are reunited with them at the annual Central DuPage Hospital NICU reunion held every October. Paige and her parents can’t wait to attend the event in 2019.

“We are in love with everyone at Central DuPage Hospital,” adds Paige’s mom. “Because of them, our first and only child is doing amazing. She smiles all the time and absolutely loves to hear people sing – sometimes the worse the singing, the better she likes it! We have so much to be grateful for.”


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