Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU’s NICU earns Beacon Award for Excellence

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The Newborn Intensive Care Unit at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at Virginia Commonwealth University has become the first NICU in Virginia to receive designation as a Beacon Unit by the American Association of Critical Care Nurses, and it achieved the highest level possible, Gold designation.

The Beacon Award recognizes individual units within a hospital that show exemplary practice in improving every facet of patient care. The NICU cares for premature and critically ill newborns as well as full term infants who experience a wide range of medical or surgical problems. The unit cares for hundreds of infants each year who are affected by any number of respiratory, cardiac, gastrointestinal, neurologic and genetic issues.

“The hard work of all the NICU staff has made this achievement possible,” said John Duval, CEO of MCV Hospitals. “It demonstrates their commitment to patient care, and I commend them for earning this well-deserved recognition.”  

For patients and their families, the award means exceptional care has been provided as evidenced by improved patient outcomes. These highly specialized critical care nurses excel at collaboration and help create a positive and supportive work environment.

“It is an honor that our unit received this acknowledgement,” said Sharon Cone, Ph.D., nurse manager in Newborn Intensive Care. “The staff here shows an incredible amount of team work, dedication and often goes to great lengths to ensure that the needs of all patients, families and fellow teammates are met."

The NICU is the VCU Medical Center's largest critical-care service and the oldest and largest unit of its kind in Central Virginia. The unit was and remains the only single-family room NICU in Central Virginia where parents are able to spend the night right in their baby’s room. Some rooms were also built to accommodate multiple babies. 

The 40-bed unit is staffed by more than 100 highly specialized and certified registered nurses and nurse practitioners. This collaboration is supported in great part by a variety of specialists including neonatologists and 32 subspecialty pediatric medical providers. Additionally, a wide array of professionals, including registered dieticians, pediatric pharmacists and specialty therapists -- respiratory, occupational, physical and speech -- form a holistic network of care providers. 

In VCU’s state-of-the-art NICU, practice is guided by best evidence to optimize outcomes. Examples of special therapies the unit provides include total body cooling and extracorporeal membrane oxygenation.

The NICU has been awarded the GE Imagination At Work Award and has a large number of impressive outcomes, including reducing catheter-related blood stream infections and increasing the number of mothers who provide breast milk to preterm infants most prone to developing a serious illness called necrotizing entrocolitis.

Other units at the VCU Medical Center that have received this award in recent years include the Women’s Medical and Surgery Unit, Hume-Lee Transplant Center, the Medical Psychiatry Unit, Medicine Telemetry/Progressive Intensive Care Unit, Neuroscience Intensive Care Unit, Medical Respiratory Intensive Care Unit, Acute Care Surgery Unit, Bone Marrow Transplant Unit, Surgery Trauma Intensive Care Unit, Pediatric Intensive Care Unit and the Psychiatric Medical Unit.