TYLER, Texas (KETK) – A game-changer for expecting parents in East Texas, a new neonatal intensive care unit is up and running at UT Health Tyler. Previously, parents would have to be separated from their newborn if the baby required an extra level of care.

This unit now provides the option for mothers to stay with their baby in need.

“The travel can be hard on their body after delivering a baby,” says Marcie Tunstall, the Director of Nurses for Women’s and Newborn Services at UT Health Tyler.

The new NICU is 2,900 square feet, complete with nine state-of-the-art neonatal beds with all the necessary up-to-date technology needed to provide this care. Tunstall has been with the hospital for 16 years, and is beaming with pride over the growth they have accomplished. 

“It just blesses my heart to know that I’ve been a part of this for so long and that we’ve come so far,” Tunstall adds. 

On top of being able to provide this level of care, the nursing staff is also getting the opportunity to learn from hands-on experience.

“I have lots of nurses from different backgrounds, from different areas and they bring a lot to the table,” UT Health NICU manager Jordan January says.

To assist the staff, the hospital has brought in top educators and board-certified specialists. They will be teaching the nursing staff on how to properly provide this higher quality of care for patients with different needs.

“We don’t necessarily have the ability to have live babies all the time to be able to show the real life environment,” says Grace Morrison, the UT Health Tyler NICU educator.

Adding that she was once the mother of a NICU baby, she says people don’t realize how important it is for mothers to be near their sick babies.

“It just means everything as a mom and a family to have their support system close by,” Morrison explains. 

UT Health is also working towards establishing a specialty transport team, this would allow them to move high-risk mothers and their infants from other rural East Texas hospitals so that these babies and their parents can be brought to this brand new NICU.