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The children’s team at Sentara treats premature babies 24/7, keeping families close to home

Just as the weather breaks and it begins to grow warmer, the Women’s Health Center at Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center’s team of doctors, nurses and staff are trading in their scrubs for tennis shoes.

It’s for the annual March of Dimes March for Babies walk.

It’s such a great way for all of us to celebrate, honor, and remember our babies with others who care so much about mother/baby health issues,” explains Florence Pullo, Interim Director for the Women’s Health Center at Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center, “Sentara actively participates in this campaign to emphasize how important we believe the health of mom and babies is and to unite the community in building a brighter future for all of us!”

It’s that dedication to teamwork and commitment to the smallest members of our community which is the cornerstone of everything that happens in the Women’s Health Center and is the foundation for Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center’s partnership with Children’s National Health System.

Children’s National is ranked number one for newborn intensive care in the U.S. News & World Report 2017-18 Best Children’s Hospital Survey.

“This partnership is a good thing for families and the community,” says Dr. Ashraf Afifi, MD, MPH. “The team from Children’s National offers their skills in both the full-term nursery and the intensive care nursey.”

Children’s National’s Neonatologist Dr. Afifi is the Medical Director of Neonatology at Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center. He was named a “top doc” in the recent “Best Of” edition of Northern Virginia Magazine. Since 2014, he has led the team, which staffs the special care nursery, a Level II Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), providing expert care for the sick newborns of Woodbridge and the surrounding region.

“Sentara was looking for the skills and expertise of Children’s National on the ground. Right now, we keep the kids who are in need of neonatal intensive services in Sentara. However, if infants need extra help and support, we’ll stabilize them and a transport team flies or ambulances them to Children’s,” explains Dr. Afifi.

The Children’s team at Sentara consists of full-time, board-certified neonatologists and neonatal nurse practitioners for around the clock care.

“We are here 24/7. Not all specialty nurseries have this level of care around the clock. We do,” explains Children’s National NICU Nurse Practitioner, Rosemary O’Neill.

The 14-bed unit typically consists of six intensive care and eight step-down beds. As a Level II NICU, Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center is licensed to treat babies between 32 to 44 weeks of gestation and at least 1,500 grams or 3.3 pounds.

This partnership allows families to stay close to home as they deal with a premature baby.

“For our part, we want you to stay in the community, we have everything here. You don’t have to go elsewhere. We want to be full service for you. We’re trying to get the word out and inform more families because they’re not aware of those things,” explains O’Neill.

Last year there were 260 admissions to the intensive care nursery, which is reflective of how this collaborative approach has been effective and was needed by the community. Just over 15% of those babies were transferred to Children’s National for a higher level of care.

“This collaboration give families and caregivers more advanced technologies, more advanced diagnosis, more advanced devices,” says O’Neill. “Not only do we have access to Children’s National in D.C., but we also have access to all of Sentara’s resources to our south.”

Dr. Afifi agrees, citing the advancements in research and telemedicine.

“Super pediatric subspecialties, which are few and far between, we can now reach them by telemedicine. We can reach them from the comfort of the practitioner here at Sentara. For example, the peds pathology, endocrinology, cardiology –who will give the information and have the best advice.”

In the end, the partnership is a win for both the hospital and the community it serves.

“At the end of the day, you have a family caring for their child, they have their worries and anxieties for their child, will that child make it or not, how’s that child going to be, what will this child look like down the road in a year or two, having been born at 600 or 700 grams, all of this. Our team practicing here will definitely give them assurances and we can share all the numbers and statistics with them,” explains Dr. Afifi speaking to the team’s level of expertise.

It’s this commitment to the babies they serve and the families they get to know personally every day that motivates the team to participate in the March of Dimes walk. This year is no different as they’ll be part of the Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center’s March for Babies team on Sunday, April 29 at the Loy E. Harris Pavilion in Manassas.

Join the Sentara team and register for this family and dog-friendly event.

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