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SJCH’s NICU Named NJBIZ Healthcare Heroes Finalist

magnet-award-JudyThe Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital (SJCH) has been named a finalist in the Innovation Hero category in the 2014 NJBIZ Healthcare Heroes awards program that honors individuals and organizations making a significant impact on the quality of healthcare in New Jersey. The NICU was chosen as a finalist for their innovative Colostrum Study entitled, “Saving the Lives of Our Tiniest Patients.”

Searching for better ways to stabilize and save the lives of very low birth weight (VLBW) babies, Judy Petrazzuolo, RN, and her colleagues in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital/St. Joseph’s University Medical Center (SJCH) used statistical data and evidence-based best practices to develop a study using colostrum as an expanded immunotherapy tool. The resulting successful innovative newborn colostrum protocol saves lives while benefitting pre-term high risk infants and their mothers, and is being adopted as a model of care nationwide.

The colostrum study was inspired by a one-liner heard by Judy at a breastfeeding conference. A researcher reported swabbing the mouths of babies ≤ 1500 grams (VLBW infants) with colostrum, early breast milk, as immunotherapy to protect against necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a severe bacteria that can attack the intestines of a premature infant causing severe morbidity and mortality. Judy wondered: could feeding appropriate amounts of colostrum to high risk VLBW babies impact their survival?

After research/protocol development, Judy and the NICU team at SJCH launched their year-long colostrum study, a departure from the suggested oral swabbing protocol. Focusing on high risk pre-term infants weighing less than 1 pound to 3.3 pounds, the team administered 0.1 ml of measured colostrum for each buccal cavity, at 48 hours, for 48, q 2 hours.

The study’s results proved so impressive that SJCH’s NICU embraced the measured colostrum protocol as a best practice finding it lowered the:

  • Time to start feedings from 11.2 days to 4.4 days
  • Time to ‘full feeds’ from 45.7 to 25.4 days
  • Mortality rate from 38% to 13%
  • NEC rate in the NICU (5.9% in 2012 to 1.4% in 2013)
  • Length of stay and overall cost of care per infant (NEC can increase an infant’s NICU stay by 20+ days at a cost of $200,000+)

Additional benefits revealed that feeding a mother’s own colostrum to her infant enhances mother/infant bonding, empowers a mother by easing feelings of helplessness, decreasing stress and facilitating acceptance of her infant’s fragile state. The study became the impetus of breastfeeding success in the SJCH NICU, where mothers are encouraged to provide breast milk beginning an hour after birth.

Also, SJCH has been invited to participate in a joint application for a National Institute of Health 5-hospital/5-year Randomized Controlled Trial to include ≤ 1250 gram infants to reduce the incidence of late-onset sepsis and enhance patient engagement.

The SJCH NICU colostrum study/protocol was developed through the leadership of one inspired nurse within a culture of caring, skill and teamwork; to meet patients’ needs in a positive healing environment within an organization that values life and strongly supports innovative Nursing vision and encourages inquiry through Nursing research processes.

This groundbreaking colostrum study/protocol developed by the Nursing team in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital is recognized as the first of its type in NJ – an Innovative Healthcare Hero that will continue to set trends in our state and across the nation.

Produced by NJBIZ, New Jersey’s premiere business news publication, the awards program is sponsored by Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, Hackensack University Medical Center, Comcast Business, New Jersey Hospital Association, WithumSmith+Brown, PC, MD Online, and Comcast Spotlight. The Healthcare Heroes awards finalists will be recognized and the winner in each category will be announced during a breakfast awards ceremony on June 24, 2014 at the Palace in Somerset Park in Somerset, New Jersey.

May 21, 2014

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