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What does it mean to have a Level IV NICU?

At Children’s Wisconsin, we’re very proud to have a Level IV Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) right here in Milwaukee. It was the first Level IV in the state, and still the largest. But it’s important to explain what being a Level IV means, and how that sets us apart.

Here is a brief overview of NICU levels, as defined by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP):

Level I: This describes hospitals and nurseries designed for healthy, full-term babies. They can provide basic care for newborns and, if needed, can stabilize them for transport to more specialized facilities.

Level II: Babies here are typically born past 32 weeks gestation and have conditions that are expected to resolve rapidly without need of subspecialty care.

Level III: These facilities will have a broad range of pediatric medical and surgical subspecialists readily accessible for babies born at less than 32 weeks gestation. (The NICU at Children’s Wisconsin-Fox Valley in Neenah is Level III.)

Level IV: Whatever a child’s needs are, a Level IV NICU has the specialists on staff who can help. The medical experts from various teams all work together and coordinate efforts so that there is consistency and continuity of care from admission to discharge. Our Fetal Concerns Center is a prime example of this, helping to plan care during high-risk pregnancies, and in the event of a fetal diagnosis of a birth defect or medical condition. Our NICU in Milwaukee is also located near the Froedtert Hospital Birth Center, which ensures the best care for both Mom and baby.

Level IV NICUs have the highest quality of care available, with capabilities and accessibility to services that go beyond other facilities. They can handle the most acute care and the most complex medical cases, and are located in hospitals that can perform surgeries for congenital or acquired conditions.

They are state-of-the-art and top of the line — a baby will not be transported from a Level IV NICU to go somewhere more specialized, because Level IV is as good as it gets. Simply put, they are the best place for a child during their most vulnerable time.

After the hospital

The care at Children’s Wisconsin goes beyond the NICU, as our Neonatal Developmental Follow-up Program provides for babies who need special care, are at risk for developmental delays, or have ongoing medical problems. Children’s Wisconsin also has a network of primary care providers who are experts at caring for children and can provide a smooth transition within the same health system.

Expansion, redesign

Even though our NICU is already a Level IV, and ranked among the nation’s best in U.S. News & World Report, we’re still striving to make it even better. In spring 2017, the final phase of our redesign and expansion project will be complete, offering 70 beds and private rooms for all patients. We will also be able to provide special accommodations for multiple births.