New IWK NICU combines high tech and parent’s touch

By Ben Maycock

The IWK has completed the second and final stage of transforming its Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) from open-bay care sites to private, single family rooms. Unique in Canada, this space places focus on what it takes to provide a home for families. The new environment enhances patient privacy and confidentiality, while giving families a more comfortable space to stay with their babies.

“This dream we have long worked towards is now a reality,” says Dr. Krista Jangaard, CEO and President of the IWK. “This space acknowledges that parents are partners in their baby’s health care and are the most important and vital people in their baby’s lives.”


Research shows that the most important aspect of newborn attachment is the building of loving reciprocal relationships with their parents. Based on the success of similar units in Europe and United States, the IWK anticipates that families will be more present and more active in their baby’s care which will result in improved attachment between infants and parents, improved growth, reduced infections, fewer painful procedures, earlier discharges and more confident and comfortable parents.

The recent opening of NICU South brings the total number of private family rooms to 38. Noise, temperature and sound can all be controlled in the new rooms. These features will foster optimal family involvement in their newborn’s development through skin-to-skin contact, breastfeeding and infant-parent bonding opportunities. The new rooms will optimize privacy and confidentiality which will help families feel more comfortable with bonding activities in the hospital setting.

“This unit has the potential of significantly impacting the very critical and complex relationship between baby and parent,” says Darlene Inglis, Director of Women’s and Newborn Health Program at the IWK. “We needed to blend the best of both worlds-the high tech intensive care with the high touch loving and healing care that only parents can provide.”

The creation of the new one hundred percent donor funded NICU would not have been possible without the tremendous generosity of donors. The first completed phase, NICU North, opened on April 11, 2018. Now, the second and final phase, NICU South, is complete and opened on June 26, 2019.  Last year, there were approximately 750 babies treated in the NICU.

Ben Maycock is a Media Relations Specialist at IWK Health Centre.