Rush's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit is a level 3 NICU staffed by trained and dedicated neonatal respiratory therapists who are members of the multidisciplinary NICU team.
Our team has doctors, nurse practitioners, nurses, nutritionists and pharmacists also dedicated to your baby's care. The NICU Team collaborates to provide excellent patient care for critically ill babies. All therapists in the NICU successfully completed the Neonatal Resuscitation Program and are licensed, registered therapists through the state of Illinois.
Many therapists are neonatal/pediatric and ECMO specialists, requiring specialized training. NICU therapists attend high-risk deliveries and cesarian sections and assist the team with babies' breathing needs. If your baby needs to be transported to Rush University Medical Center from another hospital, a respiratory therapist along with a specially trained nurse and nurse practitioner will provide care as the ambulance team brings your baby to Rush for the needed medical attention.
Occasionally babies need specialized tests, which are provided in another part of our hospital. A respiratory therapist helps the health care team safely bring the baby to and from the other area of the hospital. On the daily basis, respiratory therapists participate in patient rounds, where the team comes together to discuss your baby's plan of care and to offer recommendations for pulmonary and cardiac disease management.
What to Expect While in the NICU
The type of therapy your baby will receive from respiratory therapists greatly depends on your baby's heart and lung function. The most common lung problem in premature babyies is respiratory distress syndrome (RDS). Babies develop RDS when the lungs do not produce enough surfactant, a substance that keeps the tiny air sacs in the lungs open. Your baby may need surfactant placed in the lungs by a respiratory therapist after birth to help the lungs work better.
Respiratory therapists are also responsible for assisting in the management of heart and/or lung problems babies might face throughout their stay. It is possible babies may need one or more types of breathing support devices called ventilation support. We offer multiple types of ventilation devices, including high-frequency oscillation, high-frequency jet ventilation, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) and nasal canula to help your baby breathe.
Some types of ventilation devices require babies to have a breathing tube placed in their windpipes, also called the trachea. This means these babies will need a tube put into their mouth and past the vocal cords, where the tube's tip will sit in the baby's trachea. This is called intubation, which helps the baby breathe. Respiratory therapists help doctors and nurse practitioners manage the ventilators regularly. Our team also administers special gases to babies, if needed, to help care for their heart and lung problems. The most common gas used is oxygen. Under special circumstances, we also administer another special gas called nitric oxide. These special gases can be given to babies through their breathing tubes using the ventilator or through the nasal canula, a small device placed slightly in the nostrils.