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CHRISTUS St. Michael Health System’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) has been officially accredited as a Level III NICU by the Texas Department of State Health Services – the only Level III NICU in the region. This three-year designation acts as official recognition of the facility's commitment to meeting the requirements of national and state standards for Level III neonatal ICUs.

In 2015, according to a press release, the Texas Legislature passed House Bill 3433 which required hospitals with delivery services or children's hospitals with a NICU to meet certain regulations and to apply for State designation as Level I, II, III or IV nursery/NICU. The State regulations were designed to mirror national guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The designation process includes filling out a lengthy application, meeting the regulations for a specific level, and an on-site visit by a State approved survey team.

The hospital’s NICU has received a full, three-year designation recognizing the facility adheres to the highest standards and rigorous best practices of a state-of-the-art Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

"We are very pleased to receive our official designation from the State of Texas recognizing our adherence to the highest standards and rigorous best practices of a state-of-the-art Neonatal Intensive Care Unit,” said Susan Keeney, M.D., NICU Medical Director.”

A Level III designation recognizes that CHRISTUS St. Michael Health System meets quality and safety guidelines from the Department of State Health Services. To do this, CHRISTUS St. Michael provides 24-hour in-house neonatal nurse practitioner or neonatologist coverage, maintains the equipment and resources necessary to care for infants born at all gestations, is capable of prolonged ventilator use, and has a specialized NICU Transport Team, linking them to other hospitals around the region.

"This designation means that the State has verified our claim that we are providing Level III neonatal care,” said Jannice Phillips, MSN, MHA, RNC-OB, Administrative Director of Women and Children Services. “It is a marker of excellence that can help offer peace of mind during a very difficult time."

The CHRISTUS St. Michael NICU Team is composed of a range of specialized clinicians, nurses and physicians all working together to provide the highest level of care for patients. The NICU Team includes neonatologists, neonatal nurse practitioners, nurses, respiratory therapists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech-language pathologists, certified lactation consultants, neonatal dieticians, nurse educator, social workers, case management, chaplains and other specialists creating a continuum of care for ill newborns.

“We’re very proud of our NICU Team who have been working hard to make sure our NICU meets the highest standards in the State of Texas,” said Jason Rounds, President, CHRISTUS St. Michael Health System “This designation acknowledges that CHRISTUS St. Michael has all of the available resources and is committed to providing highly specialized care for newborns and their families.”

Until recently, Neonatal Intensive Care units throughout the state of Texas were self-designated. Self-designated means that hospital NICUs were able to choose which patients they took care of without definitive guidelines. In preparation over the past several years, the NICU team has been preparing for this designation to ensure that CHRISTUS St. Michael Health System remains a leader in neonatal care across Northeast Texas and the ArkaLaTex. The hospital’s NICU was visited by state surveyors for an extensive two-day, on-site survey which took an in-depth look at the program’s policies, procedures and quality-improvement programs.

“NICU babies can have prolonged hospitalizations, often 3-4 months in length,” said Rebecca Barr, MSN, RNC-NIC, Clinical Director, NICU.  “Having a level III NICU in Texarkana helps keeps families together.  To transfer a baby out of the area for specialized care means that the mother and baby are separated from the rest of the family and the support system.  We have an opportunity to provide excellent care to the baby right here in Texarkana, close to home for the members of our community.  This translates to better bonding, better breastfeeding outcomes, and happier babies, parents, siblings and extended families.