Level 6 of our new hospital will be devoted to the needs of premature and critically ill babies and their families. Our children’s hospital is home to Iowa’s only Level 4 Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)—the highest level recognized by the American Academy of Pediatrics. This means that our NICU is equipped to care for the tiniest and most critically ill babies, offering the greatest range of neonatal services and support. In addition, our children’s hospital has the only nationally ranked neonatology program in the state.

The NICU in our new hospital will replace NICU Bay 5, which is currently located on 7 Roy Carver Pavilion (RCP).  To ensure that we can offer the best care to the sickest babies, 49 NICU beds will remain in University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, just steps away from Labor and Delivery. When our new children’s hospital opens, our NICU will have 81 beds, up from 79 currently.

The NICU on Level 6 in our new hospital will have 28 spacious private rooms to enhance healing and rest. At the west end, four larger rooms will accommodate twins, for a total of 32 beds. For convenience, each NICU room will have a family bathroom. Walk-in showers with fold-down seats are designed for the comfort of postpartum moms. A shelf in each bathroom will hold a diaper scale. Another one will hold personal care items. In the rooms for twins, bathrooms will be located at the rear. In single rooms, they will be just inside the entrances.

Patient rooms will be same-handed in design, meaning that the layout will be identical in every room. No matter which room staff enters, they will know where to find equipment, sinks, supplies, and computers. Research suggests that same-handed design can help employees reduce errors and improve safety. In addition, beds will never share a common wall, thereby reducing noise transfer between rooms. With less noise, patients can rest better. Offstage (staff) areas in the center of Level 6 are designed to make rooms and hallways quieter, too.

As with all patient rooms in our new hospital, each one will be divided into three areas. The care team zone will include a sink and access to supplies. The patient zone will feature the patient’s isolette. The family zone in each room will include a sleeping area to support two adults. A nearby recliner will lay flat for sleeping and will have a glider feature for soothing babies. The chair was designed to facilitate breastfeeding. Each family zone will include a TV for family use and lights that can be controlled separately from other lights in the room. The family TV will provide access to Oneview, our interactive education and entertainment system for patients and families. All rooms will include a locking storage cabinet and a refrigerator, both for family use.

The family zone also will include features designed to meet the special needs of families with babies. Each room will have a separate refrigerator for storing breastmilk. This refrigerator will be convenient for families and will ensure quick access to milk when needed. For infection control, every room will have a sink dedicated to washing breast pumping supplies. There also will be a place for drying supplies, such as breast pump accessories. The footwall will include a large surface for displaying photos and scrapbook pages documenting each baby’s journey. When not covered with photos, the wall will display a colorful scene of the Iowa landscape.


We recognize that families of NICU patients have special needs. They often stay in the hospital for a long time and may bring young siblings with them. To make families’ stays more comfortable, Level 6 will include many special amenities.

Children of all ages will be able to enjoy the Family Activity Room. Our child life team will plan activities there for siblings during peak feeding times. This will allow moms to feed their babies with fewer interruptions. Siblings will also have an opportunity to discuss their feelings about the stress of having a baby brother or sister in the NICU.

Level 6 will have a family laundry room, two nourishment rooms, a conference room, and a consultation room. In addition, there will be three respite rooms where families can relax and refresh, yet stay close to their babies. A family lounge and vending machines are located near the public elevators.

Families of NICU babies will want to to check out our expanded Safety Store. Located in the Gerdin Family Lobby, it will offer discounts on sleep sacks used for putting babies safely to sleep on their backs. It will also carry car seats, in-home safety items, and educational resources for families. At designated times, the Safety Store’s car seat technicians will help new parents properly install safety seats in their vehicles.

Offstage, Level 6 will include staff lockers, a staff lounge, and a staff lactation room.

Getting there: Take the public elevators to Level 6; look for the blue bird icon. To reach inpatient rooms, call the unit clerk from a phone in the elevator area. Once admitted to the unit, visitors should wash their hands as directed. 

Employees providing patient care in the NICU may get back and forth between the children’s hospital and UI Hospitals and Clinics via the Level 6 connector.