Neonatal Intensive Care Unit 

If your baby is or expects to be in the NICU, click here to read about issues that may be affecting your baby.

Sierra Vista Newborn Intensive Care UnitSometimes, even the most advanced prenatal care can’t prevent complications in pregnancy. Having a baby doesn’t always go according to plan. The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center is here to provide you with peace of mind should your baby need immediate medical care following her entrance into this world. 

Located just down the hall from our Birth Center, the Sierra Vista NICU has provided advanced critical care to the Central Coast’s tiniest and most fragile babies for more than 15 years.

Recently expanded in 2009 to better meet the needs of our growing San Luis Obispo Community, our twenty-two licensed bed facility is the only Level III NICU in San Luis Obispo County. This means that Sierra Vista has the capability and resources to care for newborn infants with extreme prematurity (twenty-three or more weeks gestation) or who are critically ill. Very rarely do babies need to be transferred out of the area for care.

Three board-certified neonatologists are on-staff to provide around-the-clock care to the newborns in the NICU. These physicians, along with a team of highly specialized nurses, respiratory therapists, physical and occupational therapists, lactation specialists, nutritionists and social workers, provide comprehensive care on par with large academic centers throughout the country. 

Our relationship with Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford, Children’s Hospital of Central California and our association with Pediatrix Medical Group gives us a great deal of exposure to emerging practices and trends, which affords us early insight into promising therapies and techniques. Some more recent examples include increasing Kangaroo Care in the NICU. This skin-to-skin contact not only nurtures the bond between baby and parent, but has also been shown to improve growth and neurodevelopmental outcomes. The use of breast milk, while avoiding formula, is also encouraged in the NICU.  Even though most preemies are too small or weak to latch on to their mother’s breast in the days or weeks immediately following their birth, pumped breast milk is still given until their sucking reflexes are more fully developed. Lactation specialists are available to help new mothers achieve success with their milk production. 

Having a newborn in the NICU can be stressful to say the least, but the Sierra Vista team of specialists works closely with the parents and families of each newborn, providing support and encouragement on a daily basis.  Parents are encouraged to participate in the care of their newborn and are taught how to interact and respond to their basic needs in a mutually beneficial and non-threatening way. With the exception of rare times, parents are invited to stay with their babies anytime of day.

Of the more than 1200 births each year at Sierra Vista, nearly 15-percent receive care in the NICU.



Levels of Neonatal Care Units

The levels of care are used as a method of designating the care provided by hospitals for newborn infants. It is based according to the complexity of care provided, ranging from basic care (Level I) to the most complex care (Level III). Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center is a Level III NICU.

·          Level I - Basic Neonatal Care The minimum required for any facility that provides inpatient maternity care. The hospital must have the necessary personnel and equipment to:

o         Perform neonatal resuscitation
o         Evaluate healthy newborn infants
o         Provide postnatal care
o         Stabilize ill newborn infants until transfer to a facility that provides intensive care

·          Level II - Specialty Care Nurseries In addition to providing all of the basic care listed above, Special Care Nurseries can:

o         Provide care to infants who are moderately ill with problems that are expected to resolve rapidly
o         Provide care to infants who are recovering from serious illness treated in a level III (subspecialty) NICU

·          Level III - Subspecialty NICU's Care for newborn infants with extreme prematurity or who are critically ill or require surgical intervention.



NICU Infant Follow-Up Clinic

The NICU Follow-Up Clinic at Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center provides comprehensive developmental follow-up to eligible graduates of the neonatal intensive care unit. Our multidisciplinary team provides infant development assessments, parent support and family education. We work closely with your pediatrician and other medical professionals involved in the care of your child to promote optimal growth and development.

The follow-up program is staffed by doctors, nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, nutritionists and socials workers from Sierra Vista and the surrounding communities.

For more information about this program, call (805) 546-7708.



NICU Support

The most important thing to remember when your baby is in the NICU is that you're not alone. The Sierra Vista NICU staff encourages parents to connect with one another to share stories and ask questions.

Sierra Vista NICU Support Group: Come join us on Thursdays from 12pm-1pm at 35 Casa Street, Suite 360 (adjacent to hospital). Find support from other parents who have shared your experience and learn valuable information from our team of medical professionals. Topics often covered during the meetings include: adjusting at home, managing sleep, postpartum depression, family communication and feeding issues. All NICU parents and families with complicated deliveries are welcome.

Sierra Vista NICU Support Group on Facebook

The March of Dimes Family Support Program



Steven Van Scoy, MD (NICU Medical Director)

Dr. Van Scoy graduated from University California Santa Barbara with a degree in marine biology in 1981. After a brief career in research, it became apparent that he wanted to work more closely with people. He decided to pursue a career in medicine and earned his medical degree from the University of Southern California in 1989. Dr. Van Scoy received his pediatric training in the United States Army in Hawaii and completed his neonatal fellowship at the University of Hawaii, earning several awards for his teaching and research. Dr. Van Scoy relocated to the Central Coast in 1997 with his growing family which now includes his wife and two children. When not working, his hobbies include bicycling, automobile restoration, vintage watch repair and backpacking.

Claudia Hackethal, MD

Dr. Hackethal is board-certified in pediatrics and neonatology. She has cared for newborns in the Sierra Vista Neonatal Intensive Care unit since 2004, where she currently serves as the head of the Quality Improvement Council. Dr. Hackethal's interests include breastfeeding medicine and infant nutrition and she has published several articles on infant sleep patterns and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. She attended medical school at St. Louis University and completed her residency and neonatal fellowship at St. Louis Children's Hospital. Her memberships include the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Academy of Breast Feeding Medicine and the San Luis Obispo Breastfeeding Coalition. Dr. Hackethal has two daughters of her own and enjoys cooking, music, travel and going to the beach!

Robyn Borghese, MD