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Same Resources, New Floor Plan at Providence's New NICU

July 03, 2013|By Caslon Hatch | Channel 2 News

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Advancements in medicine and technology have developed rapidly over the years and Anchorage's Providence Hospital is no exception.

Providence Hospital has all of the state-of-the-art equipment and medical practices, but using the resources it already has, the hospital’s new neonatal and intensive care unit tries a new approach -- changing the floor plan.  

Elijah and Autumn Marble are healthy now, but when they were born back in March their birth weight fell short of a reason for celebration. Both were born weighing under 2 pounds. The mother of those newborn twins, Michele Marble, wasn’t even able to hold her babies until days after they were born.

“The first thing you want to do when you have a baby is hold them,” Marble said. “They looked like babies but they were so small with no fat, they just looked like skin and bones.”


Marble, who lives in Juneau, says with each new day, the twins are improving and she credits much of their progress to the care they’ve received in Providence Hospital’s new NICU.

Providence’s NICU used to operate under an “open bay concept," offering only about four feet of personal space.

The area has now been expanded under the new floor plan. The clinical manager of the unit, Sharon Liska, says she believes the constant noise and lack of privacy made it more difficult for newborn development in the past.

“As time and studies have been done we realized that because of the brain plasticity of a developing neonate, that they really need silence,” Liska said.

The old unit also didn’t offer a place for parents to sleep next to their children while staying overnight at the hospital.

“As we progressed and learned from what the baby and what the parents were showing us, we realized we needed to keep that biological unit together,” Liska said.

The recent changes appear to already be paying off according to hospital staff. They say they’ve seen improvements in the health of premature babies in the unit and they suspect it has a lot to do with mothers and children bonding more closely together.

“Even if the baby is having a bad day, you get the baby out and on mama’s chest. Let them just snuggle back into each other, the heart rate slows down and breathing normalizes,” Liska said.

Michele Marble is a believer, having spent time in both the old and new NICU unit at Providence. She says when she’s less stressed, twins Elijah and Autumn are also less stressed, and she believes that makes all the difference in their growth.

“Now you have your own room and I can just stay with them 24 hours a day, which helps with breast feeding. I can feed them on demand when they wake up and want to eat. I’m right there, I can feed them,” Marble said.

With the quick developments of the twins, the family’s return to Juneau together is inching closer with each passing day.

“They are getting really strong,” Marble said. “My son is a little tank now and my daughter is petite but she’s moving right along too.”

Providence says it’s all the same technology and medical practices, but simply a new and different approach.

“We’ve been able to recognize that the medicine is certainly important, it saves those babies lives,” Liska said. “We do incredible work here, but that mom is that baby’s mom and the dad is that baby's dad. They need to be together.

Two more NICU pods will be opening by the end of the year, advancing from 58 beds in the old unit to over 70 beds with the additional two units.

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