What to Expect in our Level 3 Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)

This video shows parents what to expect in the Denver Health Level 3 NICU (see Spanish video below).

No parent expects to have their child stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) when they are born, and the care team at Denver Health understands that it can be a stressful experience. Our team of doctors, nurses and staff are here to support not only your baby but you as well. We have a Level 3 NICU, meaning we care for babies born at less than 32 weeks gestation as well as babies born with critical illness.

This page is intended to provide more information for you during your NICU stay. Remember, if you have any questions, please ask your nurse or other NICU staff for clarification.

NICU Monitors

Every baby in the NICU is connected to a monitor. We do this to ensure your baby’s safety.

  • The green number on the monitor represents your baby’s heart rate. The appropriate range for a baby’s heart rate is between 100 – 200 beats per minute. If your baby’s heart rate is outside of this range, the monitor will sound an alarm, and your nurse will come into the baby's room to check in and make sure everything is okay.
  • The blue number on the monitor represents your baby’s oxygen saturation. There are different ranges for this depending on how much respiratory support your baby needs. Generally, this number should be over 90.
  • The white number on the monitor represents your baby’s respiratory rate. The appropriate range for your baby’s respiratory rate is 30 – 60 breaths per minute.

There are other types of measurements we can add to the monitor if we need to. If you notice additional colors or numbers on the monitor in your room, your nurse will provide you more information.

You may also be wondering how your nurse knows if the monitor is sounding an alarm if they are not in the room. At the desk, nurses can see all the NICU patients and will respond to alarming monitors even if it is not their assigned patient.

Your nurse can also see all of their assigned patients from any of their other patient’s rooms. If your baby’s monitor is sounding an alarm and your nurse is taking care of one of their other babies, they can see what is happening on your baby’s monitor and react appropriately.

Este video muestra a los padres qué esperar en la UCIN Nivel 3 de Denver Health.


NICU Incubators or Isolettes

While your baby is in the NICU, they may need extra help to maintain their temperature. You may see your baby in an incubator or Isolette instead of a crib. Isolettes allow your nurse to keep your baby warm, protect your baby’s skin and keep your baby safe.

"Care Times"

Evidence suggests that babies in the NICU have better outcomes when they are allowed to sleep without being disturbed. We have what we refer to as “care times” in the NICU to allow your baby to rest and grow as much as possible. Your nurse will discuss specific “care times” for your baby with you.

During the care times, nurses will:

  • Change diapers
  • Take your baby’s temperature
  • Feed your baby
  • Have you hold your baby
  • Make sure all of the vital signs are good

We encourage parents to be involved, and your care team is committed to teaching you how.

Patient Rounding

Every morning from 9:30 - 11:30 a.m., the Denver Health NICU care team gathers for what we call patient rounds. This is a time for everyone involved in your baby’s care to discuss our plan for the day and answer any questions from parents or caregivers. We encourage parents and families to come to these rounds and ask questions about anything that is unclear or anything that you are curious about.

We also have social workers in our NICU who are here to support you and offer any resources you may need. Typically, our social workers will talk with you at the beginning of your baby’s NICU stay to learn more about you and your family and offer any resources or programs that your baby may qualify for. They are also available to you as needed throughout your baby’s time in the NICU.

Call Light

In every patient room there is a call light. Before leaving the room, a nurse will make sure the call light is in reach, especially if you are holding your baby. Please press the red button to call for your nurse with any concerns and to help you put your baby back in their crib or Isolette.

Visitor & Food Policy

The Denver Health NICU is a secure unit, meaning you will have to be let in at the door by the unit clerk. The nurse or unit clerk will review the visiting policy with you shortly after your baby is admitted. There are business cards in every room with the number to the NICU. When you call for updates on your baby, you will be asked to provide a security code. You can ask your nurse where to find this code.

When you come into the main NICU on the third floor, you will go to the unit clerk's desk and sign in. If you need help finding your baby’s room, the unit clerk at the desk will help you.

You will find there are two nurses' stations when you walk around the main floor of the NICU – one on each side.

When you first come into the third floor of the NICU, you will walk by the “Robin's Nest.” This is where you will eat any meals in the NICU, as we do not allow food or drinks, except water, in the baby’s rooms. Your food tray will be delivered to the Robin's Nest instead of your baby’s room. This is also where there is a restroom. We ask that you scrub your hands thoroughly in the Robin’s Nest before entering the NICU; you will find a sink and scrub brushes here.

Fourth Floor NICU

Sometimes, if all the rooms are full in the main NICU on the third floor, we may move your baby upstairs to the fourth floor. A nurse will call you when this happens. When your baby is moved, take the elevator to the fourth floor, and follow the signs to the NICU on the left side. You will buzz in the same way upstairs on the fourth floor as you do on the third floor. Upstairs, you are allowed to eat in your baby’s room. Your baby will still be connected to monitors that can be seen at all nurses' stations.

Taking Care of You and Your Baby

We look forward to taking care of you and your little one. Remember: if you have any questions, the NICU staff is here at any time to help answer them. We want to make your time with us as stress-free as possible, and no one can replace the valuable role you play as a parent.