News From Terre Haute, Indiana

March 29, 2013

Mother & Child ReUnion

Hospital’s new birthing unit quickly unites mom and baby after delivery

Howard Greninger
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Union Hospital on Monday will open its new “mother-baby unit,” which doubles the size of the hospital’s post-delivery space.

It took four months to complete the $3 million renovation for the new 30-bed unit on the second floor of the hospital’s west building. The space previously served as a medical-surgical floor.

Hospital employees and physicians were able to walk through the new unit Thursday as part of an internal open house.

The mother-baby unit is a place where a mother and baby are taken after delivery. New mothers are instructed on breast-feeding and educated on child care. The unit’s decor closely matches that of the first-floor labor room.

The hospital unit also has an office for a registered nurse who serves as a full-time lactation consultant. The consultant “is now on the same floor, where before she was across the street in the professional office building,” said Laura Brown, interim nursing care manager of the mother-baby unit.

The unit also has new “stork shop” to allow mothers to purchase breast-feeding materials.

“This will be a huge asset for families. We are doubling the space,” Brown said. “We have computers in the room for charting and documenting medications. That is huge for our staff” so they do not have to tote around carts with computers.

A bereavement specialist is also located in the unit, who provides families of still-born babies support and counseling.

The unit has a nurse-to-patient ratio of one nurse to three couplets, which are mother and baby, Brown said. The mother-baby unit has 47 employees spread over evening and day shifts.

“It is very efficient,” Brown said. “Previously, if we have more patients than we have rooms, we had to keep them back in the labor room or we would have an overflow unit on pediatrics. That spread out our staff between two different units, so this new [mother-baby] unit is very efficient for us to move patients through and have the space for them,” Brown said.

The new unit is needed as Union Hospital now averages 140 births per month, up about 20 births per month since July 2012. The hospital already has had 140 births and 220 out-patient visits, for testing or checks, so far this month, said Jennifer Harrah, a registered nurse and nursing care manager for the hospital’s newborn intensive care unit and pediatrics.

The concept for the new unit is to have mother and baby remain together in a room, to allow bonding time, Harrah said. However, if a mother needs an additional medical procedure or a requires extra sleep, the baby is kept in a nursery area, which has many windows.

“The natural light in the nursery is great for examinations by physicians and nurses. It is open and airy, so you will not feel tight,” Harrah said. “We are excited.”

The unit floor is decorated throughout with large photographs of babies born at the hospital. Photographs are taken of each baby and are archived for two weeks. If a parent chooses, they can pick photos they want to obtain.

Each room has a couch that flips over for a father or partner to sleep on in the same room as the mother. The flip couch does not take up additional floor space.

In addition, the mother-baby unit is locked. To gain entry, a visitor pushes a buzzer outside the unit for a two-way speaker, which also has a video monitor, allowing nursing staff to see who is requesting entry.

The renovations are part of Union Hospital’s second and final phase for maternal child services. The first phase renovated the hospital’s labor room and newborn intensive care.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or