By Grace Boddie, RN at The Elliot Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit


A lot of expectant parents don’t consider the presence of a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) when they are deciding where to give birth. Nobody really plans on needing it, especially for uncomplicated pregnancies. But I can honestly say that a huge percentage of the families I take care of had no plans of needing the NICU, so it’s good to have it as a resource, just in case. Here are some fun facts:


NICUs Are Not Just for Preemies

We do have a lot of premature infants, but we have close to an equal number of full-term babies with other complications ranging from relatively stable to very, very critical. Some of the sickest babies I have ever cared for have been full-term babies with totally uncomplicated pregnancies.


NICUs Have Levels

The Elliot is the only Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) in southern New Hampshire. NICU’s technically are only intensive care units if they are a level three or four, characterized by their ability to manage babies on ventilators, including long-term and use of specialized ventilators, care for micro-preemies that can be as early as 23 weeks gestation, and manage critically ill babies which include many things but can involve specialty surgeries, use of inhaled nitric oxide, and neuroprotective cooling, to name just a few.


The Elliot NICU does all of this and is one of only two hospitals in New Hampshire that are able to provide this level of care. Hospitals with levels one and two are considered Special Care Nurseries, not NICUs, and are able to care for more stable babies. This is the most common category, and many hospitals in NH have these. They are a great resource for babies who need a little extra help after birth or are a little early but are overall stable.


We Receive Babies from Across the State

Hospitals with Special Care Nurseries need to transfer their babies out to a NICU if they are born too early or require any higher-level interventions. This can be really hard for parents if they need to stay far from home or make that commute daily in order to see their child. The Elliot also has a specially trained NICU Transport Team so that we can go out to surrounding hospitals and pick up babies that need our care.


Strive for the Best. Prepare for the Worst.

Almost nobody plans on their baby being in the NICU. I can’t tell you how many parents have said these exact words to me as they sit at their NICU baby’s bedside. Many parents have experienced completely normal and stable pregnancies that carry to full term, and still, their babies can need help that lands them in the NICU. Strive for the best, prepare for the worst.


That is part of why I love my job so much. We have the ability at The Elliot to support parents through very typical and stable labor and delivery, but we also have the resources to accommodate a very high level of care without separating babies from their parents.


I’m appreciative of all the strong relationships I’ve built with families through the years, and I am so proud to be part of the Elliot NICU.