When Danielle Wagner gave birth to quadruplets on May 8, 2013, she knew they would have to spend time in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). With four tiny babies who all faced health concerns, Wagner quickly learned how important it was to have the entire family in one room.
“I could see every monitor, and I never had to run from one room to another to see how my babies were doing,” she said. “I could communicate with the doctors without worrying that someone else was listening. We decorated the room and really made it our own. It was as close to being at home as possible within a hospital.”
Experiences like Wagner’s are why Mercy is including a NICU in its new hospital in Joplin, and why that NICU will feature individual family rooms, just like the unit at Mercy Hospital Springfield, where Wagner had her babies.
Losing the old hospital to the EF-5 tornado in 2011 was devastating, but it also presented an opportunity. “We were given the chance to re-imagine how we could deliver health care to the four-state region,” explained Gary Pulsipher, president of Mercy Hospital Joplin. Almost immediately after the storm blew through, planning began for a replacement hospital.
Now, the new hospital is about a month away from opening and the nurses and therapists who will work with those tiny patients are getting specialized training from their counterparts at Mercy Hospital Springfield.
“This collaboration pairs the expertise of an established team with our Joplin co-workers,” explained registered nurse Caroline Griesemer, Mercy NICU clinical educator. “They know caring for a neonatal patient is complex, and they will be ready.”
The Joplin caregivers say the training has been invaluable. “It’s amazing,” said Sandi Godfrey, RN, who will be nurse manager of Joplin’s NICU. “Our co-workers in Springfield not only opened the door to us, they reached out, embraced us and took us under their wings. It’s a true partnership and friendship.”
For Godfrey and the other Joplin NICU nurses, the new unit is a dream come true. “I knew in seventh grade that I wanted to either be a midwife or a nurse practitioner,” she said. “Then my second daughter was born prematurely and continuing my education wasn’t an option. This NICU means I’ll be providing the kind of care I’ve always wanted to.”
The NICU at Mercy Hospital Joplin will feature 12 beds with private rooms so families can spend time together. Most other hospitals have NICUs with one large room where families are crowded between cribs. Wagner experienced that when one of her daughters was transferred to a different facility. “I was there with an extremely sick baby and we were in that large room,” she explained. “I felt so exposed during an absolutely horrific time.” Her daughter, Rowan, passed away. “I truly feel those private rooms take stressful scenarios and make them better.”
Mercy Hospital Joplin opens to patients on March 22, 2015. The new NICU is in the same area as the mother’s unit, which features hotel-style rooms where the mothers can both deliver their babies and recover. The OB/GYN clinic offices are just steps away, so doctors are right there when they’re needed.