If you know that you're at risk for complications, whether or not a hospital has a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) is an important consideration. Hospitals are ranked by levels. A level 2 hospital may have a neonatologist (a doctor who specializes in caring for newborns) on staff and some NICU equipment, while a level 3 hospital has a full NICU and staff, including NICU nurses, neonatologists, respiratory therapists, and social workers trained to meet the needs of families with sick newborns. Large teaching and big-city hospitals are often level 3. Another important factor is the NICU's newborn fatality rate. The lower it is, the better the facility.
Originally published in American Baby magazine, November 2006. Updated 2009