Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit is an inpatient hospital unit where a team of specially-trained professionals is needed to care for critically-ill newborns and to support their parents and families.

NICUs are organized around the needs of the baby within the level of care and resources assigned at the hospital. Listed here are many of the types of health care professionals who may be involved in the care of your child.

The neonatologists, nurse practitioners and others of Fairfax Neonatal Associates work at Inova Children’s Hospital, Inova Fair Oaks Hospital, and Inova Loudoun Hospital as independent medical group devoted exclusively to the best care possible for NICU patients.

NICU Care Team

Neonatologist – A physician (MD/DO) who has completed an extensive 3-year neonatology fellowship after completing a 3-year pediatric residency and is trained to care for sick and premature newborn infants. All of the neonatologists on the care team are part of Fairfax Neonatal Associates.

Pediatric Hospitalist – A pediatrician (MD/DO) who has completed a 3-year pediatric residency and dedicates their practice to the hospital-setting. Members of Fairfax Neonatal Associates.

Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (NNP) – A registered nurse with advanced training and successfully met all the requirements for board certification as a neonatal nurse practitioner. They will assess, supervise and manage NICU patients in consultation and collaboration with the neonatologists. All of the NNPs at the specific hospitals FNAPC serves are part of Fairfax Neonatal Associates. Members of Fairfax Neonatal Associates.

FNA NICU Liaison – A NICU Liaison is a medical professional, employed by FNA at the Inova Children’s Hospital, to act as a resource for information and communication between the neonatologists/NNPs and the parents and family of the NICU patient.

Medical and Surgical Subspecialists – Physicians from a wide variety of pediatric medical and surgical specialties who may be involved in the care of the NICU patient at the request of the NICU team. Our hospitals provide specialized children’s services in more than 35 medical specialties.

NICU Nurse – A registered nurse who has been specially trained in the care of critically ill newborns.

Resident/Fellow – A doctor completing their medical training who are supervised by a neonatologist in the NICU.

Respiratory Therapist – A clinical professional specially trained in respiratory conditions. Respiratory therapists operate the medical equipment that helps newborns with breathing problems.

Neonatal Nutritionist – A registered dietitian who specializes in assessing the unique nutritional needs of sick or premature newborns.

Lactation Consultant – An allied health professional, many are registered nurses, who have completed special training to help mothers with breastfeeding.

Occupational/Physical Therapists – Allied health professionals with training to help improve a newborn’s neuromotor development (how the brain and muscles work together).

Speech Therapist – Professionals with training to help assess a newborn’s feeding skills and to assist when a newborn is having difficulty with oral feeding.

Genetic Counselor – A professional with specialized training in medical genetics and counseling who helps families understand malformations, genetic diagnoses, and testing options.

March of Dimes NICU Family Support Specialists – March of Dimes, in conjunction with the hospitals, provides a NICU Family Support Program that offers information and comfort to families during the hospitalization of their newborn and during the transition home. The Family Support Specialists promote neonatal family-centered care in NICUs. The program also educates NICU staff about the best ways to support infants, families, and each other.

Neonatal Pharmacist – A pharmacist with specific training in neonatal drugs and doses to support the safety of medications and IV nutrition needed to treat NICU patients.

Social worker – A professional who helps you with emotional concerns for your baby in the NICU, helps you deal with financial needs, and if needed helps you get special equipment or caregivers when your baby is ready to go home.

Others on the Team – Many others in the hospital are involved as direct or indirect caregivers or in supporting the caregiver team. These may include medical technologists and laboratory technicians, radiology technicians, patient transporters, and housekeeping and maintenance personnel.

nurses with patient

Vermont Oxford Network

FNA, in partnership with the Inova Children’s, Fair Oaks, and Loudoun Hospitals, is an active member in the Vermont Oxford Network. The Vermont Oxford Network (VON) is a collaboration of nearly 1,000 NICU’s around the world that work together to improve the quality and safety of medical care for newborn infants. FNA participates annually in projects initiated by VON for its member NICUs.

FNA is currently involved in the following VON quality improvement projects:

  • Choosing Antibiotics Wisely. The CDC has identified antibiotic overuse as one of the “top five” targets for improvement. This project will pioneer evidence-based best practices to reduce the overuse of antibiotics in the NICU and develop standardized protocols for hospitals to share.
  • Teams and Teamwork. This quality improvement project will look at critical processes of care in the NICU that rely on teams, such as delivery room resuscitation, urgent response, and transport.