Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)


Critically ill newborns require specialized care and treatment. The doctors, nurses, social workers and counselors on the UK Neonatology team are experts in treating the unique problems faced by at-risk newborns and babies born early, or 'preemies.' We are a Level IV NICU, which means we are equipped to care for the tiniest and most critically ill babies.

Our care team will work with you and your family to help you deal with your child’s medical emergency. Our relationship doesn't end when your newborn leaves the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), either. We provide comprehensive follow-up care to help you and your family with the challenges of caring for a high-risk newborn and offer special follow-up care at our NICU Graduate Clinic, designed to help children with developmental problems and abnormalities.

NICU Family Guide

We know having a baby in the NICU is stressful. We have a dedicated care team to support you, your family and your baby. We want to make your stay as safe and comfortable as possible.

Our NICU Family Guide will help answer some common questions and help you know what to expect in the NICU. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to ask any member of your baby’s care team at any point in your journey.

About our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)

The NICU at Kentucky Children’s Hospital is a state-of-the-art space that has 90 beds to provide the highest level of care to Kentucky's smallest patients.


Features designed and created with the special needs of these tiny patients and their families include:

Friendly neighborhoods

Welcome to the neighborhood! Each corridor in the NICU has a designated Kentucky nature theme. This is useful for wayfinding and establishing a sense of community within each neighborhood.

Twin rooms

The NICU has two rooms that allow parents of twins to stay with both babies in one room.

Patient rooms

Every room in the NICU is private and outfitted with a daybed, kangaroo chair and breast pump, allowing parents to stay in the space with their baby as much as possible.

Home amenities

This space has family showers, a kitchen and laundry facilities so that long-term patients and families have as many home amenities as possible.

Family lounge

A family lounge area encourages community and support among NICU families. Programming is planned in this lounge area to facilitate family interaction and support.

Care-by-parent rooms

The NICU has two care-by-parent rooms that allow parents to slowly begin caring for their child on their own. This prepares families to go home by facilitating the care transition in a safe environment.


Circadian rhythm lighting

Circadian rhythm lighting, which mimics natural light cycles, is a feature in all patient rooms. Studies prove such lighting has developmental benefits for infants, such as improved weight gain, growth and oxygen saturations, and reduced crying and fussing.

Staff spaces

In addition to state-of-the-art spaces for patients and families, the NICU also includes fresh and functional staff spaces. These include workrooms, a lounge area, a quiet room, a staff terrace and a simulation room all within the unit, allowing staff to work and have downtime while staying close to patients.

Infant nutrition room

Our infant nutrition room is the central location for formula and breast milk preparation for all of KCH. This room will be managed by registered dietitians to ensure that we are meeting the nutritional needs of neonates and all children throughout the hospital.

Our team uses ground and air transport to bring patients to our intensive care environment. About 40 percent of birthing mothers at UK HealthCare are considered high risk; 20 percent of their infants are low birth weight and are admitted to the NICU. About 50 percent of the NICU admissions come from our own delivery service. The remainder of our infants are transported by the nurse clinician on the neonatal transport team.

"A Small Miracle": One family's story 

About our team

The NICU team includes doctors, advance practice providers, nurses, respiratory therapists as well as dietitians, social workers and discharge planners.

Attending physician (neonatologist): a medical doctor who finished an additional three years of specialized training beyond what is required for a regular pediatric doctor. They coordinate and make suggestions about your baby's care plan to the other team members and are available 24 hours a day if a problem arises. 

Neonatology fellow: a medical doctor who has finished pediatric residency and is currently completing his/her training to become a neonatologist. 

Resident physician: is a medical doctor who has completed medical school and is now receiving specialized training.

Advance Practice Providers (APP): This group includes Neonatal Nurse Practitioners (NNP) and Physician Assistants (PA). The NNPs are registered nurses that completed extra training in the care of sick newborns. PAs completed training to become PA and an additional neonatology residency. This group works closely with the attending physicians and neonatal fellows on the unit.

Neonatal nurses: These nurses have completed extra training to work in the NICU. They will help you take an active role in the care of your baby. 

Respiratory therapist: licensed therapists that manage the equipment that helps your baby breathe. 

We also round with a team of nutritionists, pharmacists and social workers that help us deal with each individual aspect of your infant’s care. Once the infant is close to discharge, the discharge planner will coordinate different services required after discharge along with any necessary additional appointments.

Education programs:

To learn about the quality of care provided in our NICU, review the Vermont Oxford data here.

Patient stories

Connor StacyPediatric surgeon tells little Connor’s story of hope

Nearly one year ago, Connor Stacy went home from the Kentucky Children’s Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, or NICU, snuggled in his mom’s arms, too small to fit in his elf hat but nearly three times as big as the day he was born. Just recently, his mom sent me a photo of Connor wearing that famous hat. Read Connor's story »

Katie Schaftlein and baby Sadie

 Quintuplets arrive at UK, granting mom a special birthday wish

The smallest of the quintuplets, Sadie, defied her size with her energy, churning her legs inside and out of the womb. Her sister Scarlett, on the other hand, established herself as the calm and docile member of the bunch. And family members have already pinned Lucas, the sole boy in the group, as the sweetheart – perhaps a future golfer, his dad speculated. Read the Schaftlein family's story »

Kangaroo care

Kangaroo care is placing your diapered baby skin-to-skin on your bare chest. All babies in the NICU, big or small, can benefit from Kangaroo Care. Read about the kangaroo care project »


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