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Bringing NICU Services to the Iron Range: Women’s Health & Birth Center Adds Tele-NICU Capabilities

Babies don’t follow schedules or birth plans. That’s what makes every labor and delivery unique. At Fairview Range, the biggest priority of any birthing experience is a healthy mom and baby. That’s why we’ve recently added tele-NICU services to our Women’s Health and Birth Center in Hibbing. With this new capability, our staff can virtually consult with neonatologists at M Health Fairview Masonic Children’s Hospital

What Is a Neonatologist? 

A neonatologist is someone who is highly trained in intensive newborn care. They are specialists in diagnosing and caring for babies dealing with breathing issues, illness or infection, or birth defects. When time is of the essence, they can ensure that your baby gets the best care possible. 

How Does Tele-NICU Work? 

When complex issues arise during labor, your care team can instantly connect with a neonatologist virtually. The Women’s Health & Birth Center is now equipped with equipment made specifically for tele-NICU. It allows NICU doctors to see the situation live, read vitals, and hear the baby’s heartbeat.

“When needed, we bring in the cart, which has a computer with a camera and iPads. We can live stream with the neonatologist and hook in our stethoscopes so they can listen to the baby’s heartbeat. 

It’s pretty incredible,” explains Nikki Flannigan, the Women’s Health & Birth Center Manager. “They can then help facilitate care for newborns that are struggling or born premature. It’s also a great resource when there are difficulties with labor and delivery.” 

At Fairview Range, our tele-NICU staff is on call 24/7. This provides level III care to a rural area and gives our team assistance in deciding if a baby needs to be taken to Duluth for more intensive care. 

“The tele-NICU is a valuable resource,” says Flannigan. “It helps us give better care to babies that need to transfer to other units and is a huge asset in giving our clients the best standard of care. None of this would be possible if it wasn’t for Dr. Laura France and her team, who took on the leg work of rolling this process out!” 

Fairview Range went live with these services in the middle of November of 2022 and has already used them. The Fairview system has now implemented this capability across all of its facilities. This initiative is possible thanks to efforts by Dr. Erin Stepka and funds raised by the Department of Pediatrics at the U of M Masonic Children’s Hospital’s 3M Open fund. It is the newest telemedicine service available here through M Health Fairview; other examples include a tele-stroke program and tele-ICU services.

“I feel like it’s a huge relief for me and my staff,” states Flannigan. “Although they can’t put hands on the patient they can help direct us. It’s always good to have another set of expert eyes and ears on the patient during a high stress situation.” 

A Better Future

Flannigan sees a positive future thanks to the technology and service. 

My prediction is that we are going to be able to care for more babies here that we would usually have to transfer.”  

Keeping care close to home means the world to new parents. It means the family can stay together during a trying time and feel connected. If mom also needs to recover, she can do it near her new little one and not be riddled with anxiety. This is not always how tele-NICU works out, but can be a huge benefit in some circumstances. 

Deliver Close to Home 

Welcoming your newborn should be a happy experience. We want to provide the safest one possible and by adding tele-NICU services – we are. While needing NICU services is rare, it is nice to know it’s there if you need it. If you are pregnant or planning to be, consider our Women’s Health & Birth Center for your labor and delivery. 


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