Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)

Each expectant mother hopes everything will go smoothly with the delivery of her child. But sometimes a newborn, especially one born too early, will need special care.

We have a special needs nursery and a team of experienced and dedicated caregivers should your baby need special care, whether for a few hours or a few months.

Referred to as a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, or NICU, our unit is a Level 2 Regional Care Center. It is fully equipped to care for premature or ill babies, and we can transport any baby who needs additional care or surgery to other hospitals.

St. Vincent's Southside

St. Vincent’s Medical Center Southside, formerly St. Luke’s Hospital, is now home to Northeast Florida’s first, all-private Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).  The new NICU suites are designed to provide parents and their premature infants’ comfort in a private, quiet setting.

Research has shown the single-room model of infant care in the NICU decreases complications, improves weight gain and shortens the hospital stay for these tiny infants.  In the traditional open bay NICU, babies are exposed to lights and sounds that disrupt their sleep and interfere with their breathing and heart rate. The single-room model offers a much quieter environment with lower light 

St. Vincent's Southside NICU

exposure which results in less stress for these premature babies.  Each NICU suite has a comfortable sofa bed and recliner so parents can sleep in the room with

“These new, all-private NICU suites show our commitment to offering the very best and most advanced care to our smallest patients,” said Donnie Romine, President of St. Vincent’s Medical Center Southside. “We are confident this new model of care will benefit both parents and their babies.” their newborns. This allows for greater parent-baby bonding and gives mothers the ability to breastfeed or pump breast milk discreetly.  


The private room setting offers a variety of other benefits that include:

  • Twin and Triplet Suites
  • Mini Fridges
  • Breast Milk Warmers
  • Desk and Wireless Internet
  • Nearby shower facility
  • Comfort Room for reading and reflection
  • Family Waiting Area

“The private room model is a growing national trend,” said Dr. Jonathan Schwartz, Director of Neonatology at St. Vincent’s Southside.  “The primary purpose of the single room is to provide an environment best suited to each individual baby and their needs.  It also allows parents to become more involved in their child’s care which can translate to increased bonding between mother and infant.  This along with several other benefits results in a shorter length of stay.”

NICU nurses and baby St. Vincent's Southside

The all-private room NICU in the Family Birth Place was made possible because of a generous gift by Mary Virginia Terry. The NICU is one part of St. Vincent’s Southside’s multi-year plan to improve women’s services at the Medical Center.  Ms. Terry’s name and that of her late husband will grace the new façade of the building that will be known as the C. Herman and Mary Virginia Terry Women and Infants Pavilion.


St. Vincent's Riverside


The NICU at St. Vincent's Medical Center Riverside is staffed by a diverse professional team. Neonatologists, who are doctors specialized in the needs of ill and premature babies, direct and supervise your baby's care. They work with a team of neonatal nurse practitioners and physician assistants. A member of this team is always available to respond to any medical situation your baby may experience.

Your baby's NICU team also includes:

  • NICU nurses
  • Respiratory therapists
  • Physical therapists
  • Speech therapists
  • Dieticians
  • Social workers

One or more of the therapists may be involved in your baby's care. The therapists evaluate your baby to assess things such as muscle tone, strength, and reflexes. Your baby's therapist(s) will work closely with you, teach you about your baby's needs, and answer your questions. Their goal is to make you feel comfortable caring for your baby by the time he goes home.

If your baby is admitted to the NICU, you will see a lot of equipment and hear all sorts of beeps and alarms. Your baby's nurse will explain the particular equipment being used. We urge you to focus on your new baby. Even in the unfamiliar environment, it is quite likely that your baby will recognize your voice, even on your first visit. Our nursery staff will be busy attending to your baby's needs and will frequently be at his bedside.


We encourage parents to visit and stay with their baby. Siblings age 5 and older who have a current immunization record are also welcome to visit with you, as are other adults over 18 years old, but only two visitors at a time are permitted. All visitors must wash their hands thoroughly before entering the NICU.

If you live out of town, you and your family members may stay in our Mike Davidson Family Overnight Guest Suites located at the southern end of our campus.

Premature babies are often fragile. While we recognize the importance of bonding with your newborn, initially your baby may be too unstable for you to hold her. Your baby's doctor or nurse will discuss this with you.

Kangaroo Care

Kangaroo Care (KC) is the skin-to-skin contact between a premature infant and parent. It has been demonstrated in a number of studies to have positive effects both for the premature baby and the parent. KC promotes attachment and bonding between parents and infants in the Level 2 Nursery. A physician's order is required to implement KC.

The benefits of KC include:

  • The opportunity to initiate breastfeeding
  • Promotes positive developmental skills for the babies 
  • Increases parental confidence and skill in caring for their babies

If your baby weighs more than 1,000 grams (2.21 pounds) he may receive KC from you as long as he is physiologically stable to tolerate skin-to-skin contact in an upright position for 30 minutes, maximum, twice a day.

If your baby weighs less than 1,500 grams (3.31 pounds), he may receive KC for a maximum of 30 minutes, as tolerated. Babies requiring oxygen are not candidates for KC.

Your baby's nurse can tell you more about the benefits of KC.


For your baby's security, you will be given a secret PIN number that allows you to enter the NICU. Only you can give that PIN number out to anyone else. As an additional security measure, once your baby is born, we will give you two adult ID bands. These are identical to the band on your baby. You will need to wear one of these bands whenever you visit your baby. Another adult you choose must wear the other band.


Depending on your baby's medical needs, it could be days or even weeks before feedings are started. Until then, she will receive all the nutrition she needs through the intravenous (IV) fluids ordered by her neonatologist.

Once your baby is ready, the method, amount, and frequency of feedings will be adjusted to your baby's changing needs until she is finally breast or bottle feeding well and almost ready to go home.

We encourage and support breastfeeding. Studies have shown that breast milk conveys many benefits to the newborn, and can be particularly helpful to the immune and digestive systems of premature babies. If you have questions or concerns, we have a lactation consultant on staff to answer questions. The lactation consultant's office number is (904) 308-7325.


Our social worker can help you find community resources and give you information on financial assistance, the WIC program, and support groups for parents with special needs. In addition, our social worker is here to provide emotional support and offer referrals as needed.

Our pastoral care associate is available to provide emotional and spiritual support for you and to provide referrals as needed. Please ask your baby's nurse to call our pastoral care associate, or you may call direct (904) 308-2804. Your personal pastor is also permitted to visit with your consent. Please advise your baby's nurses, if this is your desire.

From the day of admission, parents look forward to the day their baby will be discharged. For some parents, this will be a few days; for other, it will take weeks or months. As your baby's condition improves, his environment will change. You will start to see less equipment in use.

Your baby will be moved from the open bed, used since admission, into an isolette or a crib. Here babies work on gaining weight and meeting their individual discharge requirements.

The speed with which your baby is ready for discharge can rarely be predicted. For premature babies, you may expect her to go home near your original due date.

Certain goals must be met before discharge, including:

  • Moved into an open crib and able to maintain her own temperature
  • Breast or bottle feeding well and gaining weight consistently

In addition, your baby may have other milestones, which your nurse can explain. As you see your baby reaching one milestone after another, you will know the time to go home is nearing. We want you to feel comfortable caring for your baby. Your nurse will provide you with discharge instructions.

Once your baby is ready to leave the NICU, her neonatologist might want you to spend the night in one of our rooms to take care of your baby while learning your baby's care needs.

Your baby is still a patient during this time, and nurses are close by to answer questions you may have or to provide any help you may need. We will provide you with the supplies your baby needs, but we encourage you to bring any items from home to help make you more comfortable.

Our trained staff will provide you with all the information you need to help make your baby's transition from the NICU to home as smooth as possible.


St. Vincent’s HealthCare. St. Vincent’s Women's Services