Intensive Care Nursery
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The William H. Tooley Intensive Care Nursery (ICN) at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital provides care for critically ill newborns and has the expertise to treat the smallest, sickest and most fragile babies. Founded in 1964, the nursery — sometimes referred to as a neonatal intensive care unit or NICU — was one of the first of its kind in the world. It now cares for about 1,000 infants each year.

Our doctors, nurses and other staff are among the most experienced in caring for newborns needing surgery for heart, lung, gastrointestinal and other life-threatening conditions. Our neonatal heart program is one of the largest in the country, treating almost 200 newborns with heart disease each year. Our team is also a leader in caring for babies whose first surgeries were performed before birth by the pioneering UCSF fetal surgeons.

Regional Intensive Care Nursery

The 50-bed Intensive Care Nursery can be an overwhelming place, filled with high-tech equipment. It's organized into two specialized units — one for premature babies and the other for complex birth defects, including heart problems and other conditions that require advanced life support. Each unit has a dedicated doctor and nursing staff and state-of-the-art equipment for the smallest infants. In addition, the ICN has a Special Care Nursery for more stable infants recovering from diseases or from premature births, as well as a High Observation Nursery for infants who are ready to go home.

We're certified by the state of California as a Regional Intensive Care Nursery, meaning we provide all levels of newborn intensive care. The nursery works with a network of 24 hospitals in Northern California to provide neonatology care, or the specialized care of sick newborns. Many critically ill newborns from throughout the West are brought here by UCSF Pediatric and Neonatal Transport Service because of our specialized facility and staff.

We are committed to excellent care and family participation as well as research to improve the care we provide.

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Our goal is family-centered care, meaning we provide care that revolves around families. We encourage parents of babies in the Intensive Care Nursery to spend as much time as possible with their babies.

When you arrive at the ICN, our front desk staff will direct you to your baby and provide an identification sticker for you. This sticker must be worn at all times during your visit. It is very important that you check in each day that you visit.

Before entering the nursery, you'll be asked to roll up long sleeves and wash your hands and arms thoroughly to reduce the risk of infection to the newborns.

Parents may visit at any time except during nurse shift changes from 7 to 7:30 a.m. and 7 to 7:30 p.m. as well as during medical "rounds" in the morning when our medical team discusses the care of the babies in the nursery. Please inquire about the medical rounds schedule. You may attend discussions regarding your baby, but not regarding the others. You may be asked to leave the nursery if there's a need to perform a special procedure.

Brothers and sisters may visit after being screened by our unit service coordinator. Please closely supervise your children at all times. Other than siblings of babies in the ICN, children under age 12 are not allowed in the nursery.

Family members and friends may visit if accompanied by a baby's parent. If you can't visit for an extended period of time, arrangements can be made to allow up to four relatives or friends to visit unaccompanied by you or your spouse. The unit service coordinator, however, must have your written permission. Please keep in mind that we may need to limit the number of visitors in the nursery.

For visitors, we have a waiting room with a television. We also have a kitchen equipped with a microwave oven, refrigerator, freezer and cabinets, if you wish to bring food to the hospital. We provide lactation support services as well as two breast-pumping rooms, pumping kits, storage bottles and labels. A large freezer is available for storing breast milk. Please ask your nurse if you have questions or need lactation support.

Visitors are not allowed in the ICN if they have a cold, flu or fever or if they were recently exposed to a contagious disease.

Infant Security

Babies in the nursery wear identification bands at all times. Babies who weigh more than 1,000 grams and are not on a ventilator wear security tags that are monitored by our infant security alarm system. Medical staff members caring for your baby also wear UCSF identification badges.

Support Services

The following services are available to ensure that parents and family members are fully informed and to help with emotional, financial and family concerns.

  • Spiritual Care — Spiritual care can be a source of comfort. Chaplains are available at all times. A nursery staff member can help you contact this service.
  • Parent Support Group — The parent support group is for parents whose babies are in the ICN. It is facilitated by a nurse and meets every Tuesday afternoon. This is an opportunity for parents to meet and discuss their experiences.
  • Social Services — All families are contacted by a social worker who answers questions, helps solve problems such as temporary housing and financial concerns and provides emotional support.
  • Volunteer Baby Cuddlers — Our "cuddlers" are a wonderful group of volunteers who are specially trained to hold and soothe newborns.

Contact Information

During a baby's stay in the Intensive Care Nursery, parents may call (415) 353-1565 to speak with a baby's nurse or doctor.

Our toll-free number for parents only is (800) 933-UCSF or (800) 933-8273. We ask that you use the toll-free number only once a day. We understand that your friends and family members will be concerned about your baby, but we can provide confidential medical information only to parents.

For more information, please see our ICN parents' guide as well as information about our LIFE Clinic, or Long-term Infant-to-adult Follow-up and Evaluation Program.

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Getting Here

Intensive Care Nursery
UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital
1975 Fourth St., Third Floor
San Francisco, CA 94158
Phone: (415) 353-1565
Fax: (415) 353-1202

Hours: Open 24 hours year-round

Our Team


Attending Physicians — Attending physicians are certified neonatologists who specialize in the care of critically ill newborns. They manage the care of all babies in the ICN, and there is always an attending physician present in the ICN. An attending physician sees every baby at least twice a day and approves all decisions about your baby's care.

Fellows — Attending physicians are assisted by fellows who have completed a pediatric residency and are receiving advanced training in newborn care. The fellows change frequently but one is present in the ICN 24 hours a day.

Interns and Residents — Interns and residents are doctors who are in the three-year UCSF Pediatric Residency Program.

Each baby is assigned to an intern, resident or nurse practitioner for primary care. This person will meet with you often to discuss your baby's condition and answer your questions. The fellow and attending physician also are available to meet with you regularly. Other specialists, such as pediatric surgeons, cardiologists and neurologists, will be called upon if necessary.


ICN nurses are specially trained in the care of premature and sick babies. They provide bedside care for your baby 24 hours a day. Along with the bedside nurses, there is a "charge" nurse who supervises the daily events of the ICN, a nurse manager and a team of administrative nurses. Their doors are always open for you to share your concerns and comments.

Neonatal Nurse Practitioners — Neonatal nurse practitioners have advanced training in the care of newborns. They function like the doctors to provide primary medical care for your baby and will keep you updated on your baby's progress.

Clinical Nurse Specialists — These nurses are experts in neonatal nursing and work with the medical team.

Case Managers — Also called discharge planners, these nurses specialize in getting babies and their families ready to go home. They coordinate follow-up care after discharge and help identify support services in your area.

Other Experts

Patient Care Assistants (PCAs) — PCAs help nurses with feedings, baths and taking vital signs. They also help set up equipment and work at the front desk.

Unit Service Coordinators — The unit service coordinators answer phones, manage paperwork and run the front desk.

Respiratory Therapists (RTs) — RTs manage the ventilators, oxygen and breathing treatments. They assist with suctioning and other therapies to improve a baby's breathing.

Physical and Occupational Therapists — These therapists work with babies who need special help with feeding, muscle exercises or adjusting to the ICN environment.

Hospital Lab Technicians — Lab technicians take care of the monitors that check oxygen and carbon dioxide in your baby's blood and analyze blood samples drawn by nurses.

X-Ray, Echo and Sonogram Technicians — These technicians perform X-rays and other scans using portable equipment in the nursery or on the third floor in Radiology.

Patient Support Assistants (PSAs) — PSAs keep the unit and equipment, as well as parent sleep areas and kitchens, clean.

Pharmacists — Pharmacists check medication orders from doctors, distribute medications to babies and consult with staff.

Health Professionals

For health professionals, UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital has streamlined the process for transferring, transporting and admitting pregnant and neonatal patients.

To contact the Access Center, call (877) UC-CHILD or (877) 822-4453.

Our 24-hour Critical Care Consultation provides the following services:
High-Risk Obstetrics (415) 353-1787
Neonatal Services (415) 353-1565
Pediatric Services (415) 476-KIDS or (415) 476-5437

An ICN House Staff Manual is available online for doctors and other health professionals.