ChristianaCare’s state-of-the-art Center for Women’s and Children’s Health opened one year ago — on April 27, 2020 — welcoming caregivers, parents, partners and families across the Delaware region. And what a first year it has been.
“Babies don’t stop for a pandemic,” said Matthew Hoffman, M.D., MPH, FACOG, Marie E. Pinizzotto, Endowed Chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
“The Center was born of the vision and hard work of caregivers, patient advisors and donors, who helped create a transformative model of care and beautiful new space that is warm, welcoming, comfortable and cutting-edge. Seeing caregivers and families bring the building to life has been a phenomenal experience.”
Since it opened, 6,000 babies have been delivered in the Center, including Emelia, the third daughter of Brooke and Elliot Zicarelli.
“We started our family here,” said Brooke Zicarelli. “I gave birth to all three of our girls at ChristianaCare.”
Her most recent birth experience was different than the first two.
“Emelia was breach throughout my pregnancy and delivered by C-section,” she said. “A few minutes after delivery, she needed oxygen. She had to go to the NICU, and my doctor asked if I wanted to stay with her. I didn’t even know this was possible.”
Called “couplet care,” this coupling of mother and baby in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) when both need care is one of the most significant features of the Center.
ChristianaCare is one of a few health systems nationwide to offer the approach, which is based on a European model demonstrating that moms are more likely to breastfeed in this environment. This is particularly important in the early development of children, said David Paul, M.D., chair of the Department of Pediatrics.
“There is an abundance of evidence that points to improved health outcomes for mothers and babies who breastfeed,” Dr. Paul said.
For the Brooke Zicarelli, it made all the difference in those first days of Emelia’s life.
“I was in my own space close to Emelia while I rested and recovered after surgery and she received the care she needed,” she said.
“Our nurses were absolutely fantastic — they anticipated every need and were kind and supportive, even celebrating my birthday, which is the day after Emelia’s.”
Elliot Zicarelli, who was with his wife during the birth of their three daughters – the first two in the Newark Campus’s former Women’s and Children’s unit, added, “There was so much space. It was really comfortable for Brooke and me during the two days in the NICU. We were grateful to be together.”
“This is our goal,” said Lauri Littleton, DNP, MSN, RN-BC, NE-BC, interim vice president of Patient Care Services. “We want moms, dads, partners and babies to be well cared for in one space, so they can bond during those very important early moments of life.”
Families aren’t the only ones impressed with — and adapting to — the Center.
“There was definitely a period of getting used to an unfamiliar workspace and providing couplet care, but now I love it,” said Skye Rasnake, RN. “It’s such a wonderful style of nursing and so cool to see mothers and babies bond the way they do.”
“Our caregivers and patients have been amazing,” Littleton said. “Not only have they adjusted remarkably to all of the newness, but they’ve done so against a backdrop of the pandemic, which brings its own challenges. And patients have been understanding about COVID-19 visitation policies that limit the number of visitors allowed at a time.”
Visitors who have been able to experience the eight-story, approximately 400,000 square foot center also found a rooftop garden, new and expanded labor and delivery suites, expanded private rooms for mothers and families after delivery and separate admitting and discharge areas.
Additional spaces, like the multi-level Ronald McDonald Room, which is designed to support families with infants who are in intensive care, have yet to open because of COVID-19 precautions. “We are planning for an opening as soon as it’s safe,” Littleton said.
Generous gifts support the Center’s advances and amenities such as the family rooftop garden. Community supporters include Anesthesia Services, P.A., Crystal Trust, Delaware Subaru, Delmarva Power, Doctors for Emergency Services, the Junior Board of ChristianaCare, M&T Bank, Ronald McDonald House of Delaware and Skanska USA.
As with all first years, there are exciting new developments. Among the Center’s first year advances are:
- The launch of Pregnancy Care Coach, a free mobile app that works like a comprehensive virtual care coach for moms-to-be.
- Bidirectional texting to support convenient, timely communication among caregivers and patients.
- Dining menus that allow for à la carte selections and more.
“Above all, the building is more than bricks and mortar. While it’s a wonderful space for families and staff, it’s the care we provide inside and for families that matters most,” Dr. Paul said.
Learn more about Women’s & Children’s Health services at ChristianaCare.