Frequently Asked Questions:

Why is St. Luke's the best choice for Neonatal Intensive Care

St. Luke's NICU is the most advanced NICU in Cedar Rapids. Our NICU cares for extremely low birth weight babies (less than 2lbs 3 oz). Mercy cares for babies at 30 weeks gestation or higher. Premature babies born under 30 weeks at Mercy are usually transferred to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City.

Your neonatal baby should NEVER have to be transferred out of Cedar Rapids for neonatal intensive care except in very rare occasions such as a surgical emergency. Last year we cared for more than 250 neonatal babies and transferred only 3% of our babies to a higher level NICU.

What sets St. Luke's NICU apart from Mercy?

St. Luke's is the only Level III NICU as determined by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Neonatal Intensive Care Center (NICU) in the Cedar Rapids' area and Mercy is a Level II NICU. St. Luke's higher designation means St. Luke's:
  • Has five permanent, experienced Neonatologists on staff
  • Has the most experienced NICU team of specialists including neonatal nurse practitioners, critical care nurses, pediatricians, respiratory therapists, developmental specialists, occupational and physical therapists.
  • Has been caring for neonatal babies and their families for more than 40 years, that's more than any other area hospital
  • Is the highest-rated NICU in Cedar Rapids
  • Has the most high-tech equipment
  • Team is in the NICU 24/7, 365 days a year

St. Luke's believes health care should always be provided as close to home as possible so families have the support system they need and can avoid unnecessary travel and lodging expenses. St. Luke's is also a member of the Mayo Care Clinic Network which means our NICU doctors have access to Mayo's clinical resources and can collaborate with Mayo specialists. This means our patients can benefit from Mayo Clinic knowledge and expertise locally and only need to travel outside the region for care when necessary.

St. Luke's is the ONLY Iowa hospital with this distinction. St. Luke's had to pass a rigorous review process based on quality, service and operational criteria to earn this partnership.

Do the NICU's at St. Luke's and Mercy have a neonatologist/neonatal nurse practitioner located within the hospital 24/7?

St. Luke's is the ONLY Cedar Rapids hospital providing round-the-clock neonatal care. St. Luke's team of skilled neonatologists, nurse practitioners, pediatricians, nurses and respiratory therapists are ALWAYS available to respond IMMEDIATELY to whatever needs arise. Mercy does NOT have 24/7 coverage.

Do St. Luke's and Mercy have the same amount of experience when caring for NICU babies?

No, St. Luke's NICU has nearly 40 years of experience caring for approximately 300 neonatal babies each year. Last year Mercy Medical Center cared for 77 neonatal babies. The number of patients a provider cares for each year matters. Medical research indicates providers need to see a certain number of NICU babies each year in order to maintain a certain level of expertise and skill. In addition, the expertise and experience of the support staff such as nurse practitioners and nurses matters as well. More than half of the St. Luke's team has worked in the NICU for ten or more years.

What if I deliver my baby before 40 weeks gestation, can I deliver at either hospital knowing they are able to take care of me and my baby?

OB-GYN providers recognize St. Luke's NICU expertise and capabilities and prefer you deliver at St. Luke's for you and your baby's safety.

Practically all very low birth weight babies (less than 3.3 pounds), born in Cedar Rapids have been taken care of by St. Luke's NICU and St. Luke's NICU team cares for highest-risk mothers in Cedar Rapids - working with local OB-GYN providers.

What if I deliver my baby outside of Cedar Rapids and it's a critical situation, does St. Luke's have a way to get my baby the help it needs?

In the event your baby would need to be transferred, St. Luke's is the only Cedar Rapids hospital who has a LifeGuard Air Ambulance that serves the Cedar Rapids community and surrounding areas with around-the-clock emergency and special neonatal critical care transport team. The 911 dispatcher would either dispatch LifeGuard or another medical helicopter.

Do both Cedar Rapids hospitals have the same equipment in the NICU?

St. Luke's is the only hospital in the Cedar Rapids area with special equipment for critically ill newborns. One device for very sick babies is high frequency ventilation, which provides life-saving support for infants with respiratory failure while maintaining adequate gas exchange and minimizing lung damage.

Another tool at St. Luke's is inhaled nitric oxide, which is used for pulmonary hypertension of a newborn. Additionally St. Luke's NICU is the only Cedar Rapids hospital using total body cooling, which slows down the basic functioning of the body and may decrease injury to the brain caused by the lack of oxygen and lack of blood flow. This technique is used for babies who may have had a traumatic birth and lack of heart rate for a period of several minutes

Do both hospitals have a Ronald McDonald room in case I need to stay longer if my baby is in the NICU?

St. Luke's has the only Ronald McDonald Family Room® in the area. Also available to our NICU families is a designated NICU family support person. This individual offers one-on-one counseling, special printed materials and support meetings.

Don't both NICUs have private rooms?

St. Luke's has 22 private NICU suites, which can be individualized for each newborn to grow and develop. This revolutionary NICU design has gained attention from health care institutions around the world. Mercy's NICU has only three private suites.