Level IV neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) treat the most critically ill infants, such as those with congenital heart conditions, respiratory issues and prematurity.
Level IV NICUs, as defined by the American Academy of Pediatrics:
- Include the features of level III NICUs with additional, more complex capabilities.
- Have pediatric medical and surgical specialty coverage 24 hours a day.
- Handle complex surgical repairs, such as procedures to correct congenital cardiac malformations that require cardiopulmonary bypass with extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO).
- May coordinate care with local children’s hospitals.
We spoke with neonatal nurse practitioners (NNPs) in the Pediatrix® family about the differences in working in a Level IV NICU for an advanced practice provider.
The benefits of working in a Level IV NICU
Depending on your state’s regulations, Level III and Level IV NICUs may be very similar. Neonatal clinicians working in Level IV NICUs care for the very sickest infants, which can be both challenging and rewarding.
“As an NNP, you get to work with patients’ families,” said Vicki Leamy, DNP, NNP-BC, vice president of Pediatrix® Medical Group’s Advanced Practice Provider Program. “You get to see very sick babies slowly get better and then send them home with their families, which is a great feeling.”
The environment is fast-paced and best suited for NNPs who feed off of adrenaline,” according to Jessica Jones, APRN, MSN, NNP-BC, lead NNP for Pediatrix Medical Group of Florida – Tampa Neonatology.
“In a Level IV NICU, you’re challenged to think quickly and make the best clinical decisions for babies who are at their weakest,” she said. “We work hand-in-hand with neonatologists to deliver the highest-quality care.”