Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)

A sleeping baby, with an adult's hand on their head.

OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital is among the nation’s leading providers of care for premature and critically ill newborns. Our Level IV Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) provides:

  • Nationally recognized neonatologists (experts in treating newborns) who offer the most advanced care in Oregon.
  • A family-centered approach that involves you in your baby’s care.
  • Pioneering research in areas such as ideal nourishment, patient safety and using the gentlest breathing help possible.
  • Access to the most comprehensive Fetal Care Program in Oregon and southwest Washington.
  • Services for you and your child after you go home.

Why do babies come to Doernbecher NICU?

If your newborn needs neonatal intensive care, you’re not alone. About 10% of all newborns need this specialty treatment. The most common reasons are:

  • Prematurity and small at birth: Infants who are born early (typically before 37 weeks) and underweight face many developmental and medical challenges. Our neonatal providers have specialized training in caring for the tiniest babies.
  • Neonatal breathing conditions: We often care for babies with respiratory failure after birth because of immaturity or conditions that limit lung growth. Our heart and lung specialists offer the most advanced therapies if needed. They include heart-lung bypass and ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation).
  • Anomalies of the brain, heart, kidneys and digestive tract: Babies born with these conditions may need surgery and highly specialized care. We have the largest team of nationally recognized pediatric surgeons and specialists in Oregon and southwest Washington. These experts work directly with our neonatologists to develop a treatment plan.
  • Genetic conditions: Our experienced medical geneticists work with the Doernbecher Fetal Care Program to diagnose conditions before or soon after birth. Early treatment can lead to better outcomes.

Visit our Wall of Hope

Photo of a little boy who was an OHSU Doernbecher Children's Hospital NICU patient.

Comprehensive care

At Doernbecher, care starts before birth with specialists for expectant moms and unborn babies. Families with a high-risk pregnancy choose Doernbecher knowing we have more adult and children’s specialists than any other hospital in the state. Learn about visiting the NICU and what to expect.

  • Our team includes doctors with advanced training in neonatal care, plus access to specialists across Doernbecher.
  • Our nurses are certified in neonatal resuscitation and newborn intensive care practices.
  • We offer expertise in treating infants who need ECMO (life-sustaining heart and lung support).
  • Our neonatal speech, occupational and physical therapists will help your baby eat, grow and develop in the NICU. They will also teach you skills to continue any care needed after you bring your baby home.

  • Home monitoring: Some babies may be able to leave the hospital sooner than usual, with continued monitoring from their NICU team. The Grow@Home program uses an iPad app that enables parents to instantly share data, such as their baby’s weight and food intake. Parents can also share videos or photos so their care team can check a concern.
  • Telemedicine: Community hospitals can call on us to check patients via video link. We can offer advice, such as when to transfer a child to our NICU.
  • Support during transport: Our PANDA (Pediatric and Neonatal Doernbecher Transport) team has high-tech equipment for advanced care and monitoring during transport. Our NICU team is ready the instant a patient arrives.

  • Highest level of care: We are a Level IV NICU, the highest level as defined by the American Academy of Pediatrics. This means we have treatments and specialists for even the most complex needs.
  • Beacon Award: Our NICU is the only one on the West Coast to earn the gold Beacon Award for Excellence from the American Association of Critical Care Nurses. The award recognizes our outstanding outcomes, practices and other features.
  • Top surgical and trauma care: Doernbecher was among the first U.S. hospitals verified by the American College of Surgeons as a Level 1 (top) center for pediatric surgical and trauma care.

Learn more about Doernbecher’s awards and recognition.

Your NICU team will include specialists your baby needs before and after birth.

  • Teamwork: Our specialists work together, sharing their knowledge and expertise for each patient. We carefully coordinate transfers into and out of the NICU.
  • Attentive care: We typically have one nurse for every one to three patients. We also have one board-certified neonatologist (a specialist in newborn care) for every 15 to 18 patients.
  • Fetal therapy: We work with Doernbecher’s Fetal Care Program to diagnose and treat babies in the womb. It’s the most comprehensive fetal program between Seattle and San Francisco.
  • Any specialist needed: In addition to doctors, nurses and physician assistants, your child’s care team may include:
    • Children’s imaging specialists (radiologists)
    • Specialists in heart and lung support (cardiologists and pulmonologists)
    • Specialists in children’s surgery, urology, hematology (blood) and many other fields
    • Lactation specialists
    • Respiratory care providers
    • Pharmacists
    • Child life specialists
    • Dietitians
    • Physical, occupational and speech therapists who can help with feeding and development in the NICU and after you go home
    • Infection preventionists
    • Environmental specialists
    • Social workers
    • Case managers

Follow-up care

Transition to home care: Our neonatal hospitalist will work with you and your baby’s primary care provider to arrange a seamless transition. Other providers, such as lactation specialists and speech therapists, are available for online consultation.

Neonatal Transition Clinic: It might feel overwhelming to bring your baby home after time in the NICU. The therapists in our Neonatal Transition Clinic will help you make sure your baby is growing and reaching milestones. You can visit in the first two weeks after you go home, then again as needed. You’ll find:

  • A speech-language pathologist to help with feeding and swallowing.
  • An occupational therapist to help your baby reach motor (movement) milestones.
  • A registered dietitian to help your baby’s growth and nutrition.

Neonatal Neurodevelopment Follow-Up Clinic: If your baby is at risk of learning, thinking or movement problems, we will track milestones. If needed, we can work with you on a treatment or early-intervention plan.

Ophthalmology program: Premature babies can be at risk for blindness. We work with OHSU’s Casey Eye Institute to provide the only comprehensive follow-up care between Seattle and San Francisco.

Additional services

  • Family support: Every family has access to a social worker. Ask us to help you connect with yours. Our NICU also has a staff psychologist who specializes in maternal health and depression.
  • Palliative care team: Doernbecher’s Bridges Program offers care and support for any patient and family dealing with a serious condition. Experts can help you with difficult decisions, for example, and communication with other providers.
  • NICU Family Advisory Council: This group is made up of families with children who were cared for in our NICU. They sit on committees with our providers to shape family-friendly policies and best practices.
  • Mental health services: We understand the stress of having your baby cared for in the NICU. We can connect you with social workers who will help you find the counseling or support you need. The OHSU Center for Women’s Health treats new moms in severe mental health crisis situations.
  • Social services: Social workers can offer support and help you with housing, transportation and financial aid.
  • Guest house: OHSU’s Rood Family Pavilion offers out-of-town families a comfortable place to stay (space permitting). Families with a child at Doernbecher stay free of charge.

Learn about other Doernbecher services and amenities.


At OHSU, Oregon’s only academic health center, our doctors and scientists constantly pursue improvements in care. We share the latest findings with patients as quickly as possible. Our areas of research include:

  • Looking at ways to help your baby’s breathing in the gentlest way possible, to promote lung development.
  • Studying the best nourishment to promote brain growth and intestinal health.
  • Seeking ways to improve quality, patient safety and cost-effectiveness.

More information

See our What to Expect at the NICU page to find:

  • Notes on visiting and what to bring
  • Information on infant development
  • Support groups and resources

For families

Questions? Please call us at 503-494-8122.


Parking is free for patients and their visitors.

OHSU Hospital
3181 S.W. Sam Jackson Park Road, 12th floor
Portland, OR 97239
Map and directions

Doernbecher NICU (Level II)
Hillsboro Medical Center
335 S.E. Eighth Ave.
Hillsboro, OR 97123

Refer a patient

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Stay informed

News: Read about research breakthroughs, patient care and many other topics on the OHSU News site.