Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)

Advancing the State of the Art: the Quentin & Elisabeth Alexander Neonatal Intensive Care Unit


Years in the making, the Quentin & Elisabeth Alexander Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital represents the worldwide apex of NICU design, technology and practice.

The NICU opened in 2009 and has proven to be a sought after and highly advanced unit without peer in the region. It is considered a model for future NICUs around the country and the world.

Every aspect was designed around the needs of babies and their families. Designers created the space using proven science, both in terms of medical needs and family comfort.

Our physicians laid the groundwork, with infant bonding research performed at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s hospital in the 1960s. Their pioneering work—and that of researchers who have followed—clearly demonstrates that babies heal faster in close contact with their parents. The NICU design takes full advantage of these discoveries.

Every inch of the NICU supports a critical mission: giving each baby treated here the best fighting chance to thrive, while offering comfort and convenience for families.

The design emulates the warmth, calm and stillness of the womb. Family members stay close to the baby around the clock. It is this healing, stable and secure environment babies need to fully develop.

  • Together the NICU and the Transitional Care Center have 82 beds for newborns. All but two of the NICU rooms are private. This encourages healing interaction between the baby and family. The concept was pioneered here—we were the first in the nation with private rooms. It remains a model for other children’s hospitals around the country.
  • Central to the design of the NICU is pioneering research about the key role of parent-infant contact in a newborn’s health—research conducted here and since emulated across the country.
  • Every environmental condition has been carefully taken into consideration. Lighting and temperature are precisely controlled for each child. Noise is minimized, thanks to acoustic design, advanced equipment and communications. Even air quality is enhanced or kept pure through environmentally-friendly flooring, wall treatments and other furnishings.
  • We know that while the NICU is the first home for many newborns, it also becomes the family’s second home. For that reason, it is comfortably appointed. This includes showers, sleep sofas, TV, wireless Internet and special quiet zones set aside for relaxation and relief from stress that can build in NICU families.
  • Colors, natural light, warm décor and original art also contribute to a quiet and healing environment.

Technological Advances

  • The NICU is equipped with the world’s first surgical bed designed specifically for the tiniest patients. A team of UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses and respiratory therapists worked with designers on the custom design. The bed has been named the “Rainbow Flex” in honor of the experts who helped create it.
  • Team members communicate through a quiet wireless system that eliminates buzzers and ringing phones. It is hands-free, so calls do not interrupt important care tasks.
  • A monitoring system connects each child to a nurse’s station via vital signs telemetry, Web cam and sound. It enables around-the-clock monitoring while limiting room visits to keep disturbances to a minimum.
  • A high-intensity procedure room in the unit reduces the need to move fragile babies to other areas of the hospital for special procedures such as radiology or even complex cardiothoracic surgery.

Certified and Nationally Recognized

The NICU has held a Level III designation from the Ohio Department of Health for over two decades. Level III is the highest designation available at the state level. It is reserved only for NICU facilities that meet the strictest criteria. The Level III NICU is staffed and equipped to care for critically ill infants in need of emergency surgery, or born weighing less than two pounds.

Our NICU is a founding member of the National Institutes of Children’s Health Neonatal Research Network, a consortium of 16 elite centers nationwide and one of only two that the institute continuously funds. UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital is one of four founding members. The network is at the forefront of pioneering collaborative research and clinical trials. The Network is credited with innovating many of the new treatments in neonatology over the last two decades.

The Quentin & Elisabeth Alexander Neonatal Intensive Care Unit was an investment of over $25 million, partly supported by a $10 million gift from the Elisabeth Severance Prentiss Foundation. The NICU was named in honor of Quentin and Elisabeth Alexander, longtime trustees of the Prentiss Foundation and passionate supporters of University Hospitals.

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