Grace Centre for Newborn Intensive Care at The Children's Hospital at Westmead
Ph: (02) 9845 2715
Fax: (02) 9845 2251
The Grace Centre for Newborn Intensive Care is a specialised unit where more than 600 premature newborns, neonates, and critically ill infants with complex medical conditions, such as serious cardiac and surgical disorders are treated.
Originally named after Grace Bros Staff Aid to Charities, the Grace Centre is not a maternity ward. It is a specialised centre providing tailored care to the medical or surgical needs of the state’s sickest infants—some as young as 23 weeks gestation.
Babies who are born at the maternity ward in Westmead Hospital can be immediately transferred to Grace. Other babies are flown to the nursery within hours of birth from across NSW, ACT and Pacific Rim region for urgent life-saving care not available anywhere else in the state.
We are the only accredited NIDCAP (Newborn Individualised Developmental Care and Assessment Program) training centre in Australia and lead the way in neonatal developmental care.
The wellbeing of parents is a high priority and round-the-clock support is provided. To help support families during their admission to the NICU we have a Family Support Program.
Download our Parent's Guide to the Grace Centre
Our patient stories
We are delighted to share the stories of our patients whose parents have been inspired to say thank you - in their own unique way expressing gratitude and appreciation.
- Vincenza’s story
- Molly’s Story
- Phoebe’s Story
Caring for critically ill babies
To help make your time in Grace as comfortable as possible we recommend you download the Parent's Guide which has loads of useful information. Here's a few quick tips:
If you know before birth that your baby requires urgent surgery, come in and tour the Grace NICU and meet some of our staff. It may help reduce your anxiety and once your baby has arrived help you feel more comfortable about with what goes on here. Tours of our unit are arranged by the Clinical Nurse Consultant team and your midwife.
Supporting your Baby in the NICU
As a parent you are the most important caregiver for your baby and we work with you to find out what works best for your baby and you as a family. There are many useful tips for families in the neonatal unit including how you can be involved in your baby’s care. You can find out what some the Grace Developmental Care teams top recommendations are here: Supporting your Baby in the NICU Brochure[NG(5]
This is extremely important in this critical care environment, so please remember to remove your watch, always wash your hands and ensure visitors do the same.
'All about me": Your baby's diary
Is a great way to record your baby's progress, milestones, activities as well as your experience during your time in Grace.
The book was designed by a team of Grace Staff and is a keepsake of your NICU journey. We can help by providing digital photos to include in the diary too.
We have an outside patio area, just near reception as you enter Grace, available for your use. There is also a kitchen and lounge area.
Every day our medical teams visit to check on your baby's progress. It's a good time to ask the specialists and neonatal team any questions or raise any issues. In the morning rounds commence at 0830 and 3pm in the afternoon. If you would like to speak to a doctor outside these times please let a member of our team know.
Collaborating in care
The Grace Centre shares a close working relationship with all specialty departments in the Hospital. Close collaboration with our colleagues in the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit and the Heart Centre for Children is critical especially when treating babies with cardiac conditions who need joint care and expertise across teams.
Our close relationship with surgical teams has dramatically improved patient survival and enhanced the long-term developmental outcomes of critically ill neonates. Improvements include:
- The DAISy (Development After Infant Surgery) world-first study involved more than 780 babies and their families, surgeons and other healthcare professionals. Recommendations led to enrolment of all high-risk infants in multi-disciplinary clinics, early identification of issues and initiation of early intervention strategies.
- Working with respiratory specialists to look at why some babies stop, or have difficulty breathing, and the resultant impact on their nervous systems.
Over half of the babies cared for in the Grace Centre each year are referred to our service before the end of your pregnancy. This section provides you with some information on what you can expect after your referral.
To help provide you with an overview of what the unit looks like, to introduce some of our staff and explain what you can expect we recommend you watch the Grace Parents video which can be found at the top of this page.
How are babies referred to the Grace Centre?
If your baby requires surgery or support from The Children's Hospital after they are born your obstetrician will refer you to an appropriate surgeon or treating team at the hospital, they will arrange an appointment to meet you ideally prior to the baby's birth and possibly arrange some tests.
Your obstetrician may also refer your care to a different hospital than your original planned delivery hospital closer to The Children's Hospital. This occurs as some baby's require transfer to the NICU as soon as possible after birth. Your obstetrician and team will discuss this with you in detail.
We work with your obstetricians and midwives prior to your baby's delivery notifying our team in the Grace Centre of your upcoming delivery and plans after birth. One of the teams we work closely with is the PEARLs team at Westmead (adult) Hospital.
The PEARLs team, your surgeons or treating team and Grace NICU develop a plan to identify how quickly after birth your baby will be transferred to the Grace Centre. This is dependent on a number of things including how much help your baby will need after they are born and how quickly they need to be treated by our team.
Ideally you will get to cuddle your baby and have some photos taken prior to transfer, this may not be possible for all families. The team in birth unit and your midwife will talk to you more about the plan after birth.
If you have birthed your baby at Westmead (adult) Hospital a team of doctors, nurses and your partner will accompany your baby over to the Grace Centre. Our unit is approximately a 20 minute walk from birth unit through internal hospital corridors.
What happens when we arrive in Grace?
Our team will meet your baby and determine what treatment they need. At this point some specialist teams such as heart doctors or surgeons may meet your baby and do some tests. If the baby's mum is still in the birth unit, we will take some photos and provide your partner with an update. We may also speak to the baby's mum on the phone.
As soon as it is safe (this is determined by your midwives and team in birth unit) you will be bought over to the Grace Centre by wheelchair to spend time with your baby. In the next few days, you will come over to the Grace Centre more and more as you recover after the baby's birth.
Parent access in the Grace Centre
There are no visiting hours for parents in the Grace Centre they are welcome in the unit 24 hours a day, seven days a week. With the recent COVID pandemic there have been restrictions in place at the direction of the NSW Health Department. Currently siblings and other visitors (i.e. grandparents, aunts and uncles or family friends) are unable to visit the hospital.
There are restrictions in place across the hospital to ensure we meet social distancing requirements. Both parents are welcome in the unit at all times. Each week we are evaluating the ongoing access restrictions and amending them as per the governments guidelines with our team.
When can I hold my baby?
We plan for this to happen as soon as possible. For some baby's if they are very unwell or having procedures we may need to wait a little while for your first cuddle - there are some other things you can do to make sure your baby knows you are there and can recognise your touch.
A 'hand hug' also called (containment holding or hand swaddling) is a good option for babies in the NICU.
During a hand hug you place your hands at your baby's feet so they can push against you and place your other hand on their trunk or belly as this helps them feel secure, like they are back in your belly.
The other type of cuddle we recommend in the NICU is 'skin to skin' or 'kangaroo' cuddles. Kangaroo Care is a method of skin-to-skin contact to promote parent/infant bonding when baby is premature. A parent holds the infant on a bare breast or chest similar to a kangaroo carrying their young.
Through contact with their parent’s skin, the babies are kept warm and experience a close connection to their parents. Kangaroo Care can also benefit older premature babies and full-term babies.
Kangaroo Care has shown many benefits to baby and Parents, including promoting parent/infant bonding, helping the baby to maintain their temperature, supports breastfeeding, can help the baby gain weight and helps the baby get into a deeper sleep. The Grace Centre staff can help you to cuddle your baby just ask them!
What do I need to bring?
We will provide everything you will need for your baby - nappies, wraps, dummy's (pacifiers), feeding and expressing equipment. When your baby is first in the unit they don't need to wear clothing as they sleep on a special heated bed.
When they are getting closer to home we have clothes you can borrow or you can bring clothes in, if you bring clothes in we give them back to you to wash. You are welcome to bring in items that are special to you and your baby - family photos, a special toy or wrap.
Caring for your baby in the NICU
Caring for your baby in the NICU can be overwhelming. It is normal to feel concerned about how to manage wires and tubes, knowing when to touch your baby or how to offer comfort. You are the most important person to your baby. They recognise your voice and smell and you can offer them support and reassurance.
The nurses in the Grace will help you as you change your baby's nappy and learn to complete other aspects of their care. The following resource is useful in explaining some of what you can expect in the NICU: Caring for your baby in the neonatal unit parent fact sheet
Parking and accommodation
There is parking available at The Children's Hospital at Westmead with some families eligible for concessions you can find out more information here https://www.schn.health.nsw.gov.au/hospitals/sch/parking-concessions
If your family needs accommodation prior to the baby's delivery your midwife team will discuss this with you. After your baby is born there is accommodation at The Children's Hospital the cost and options available to you will be discussed by a member of our team.
We recommend the following information sheets to families in the NICU:
- Understanding baby behavioral cues
- Music for baby's in the neonatal unit
- Reading to your baby
- Reducing pain or discomfort for your baby during painful procedures in the NICU
- Feeding your baby in the NICU
Being discharged from Grace is a happy, though sometimes stressful, time for families.
We work closely with families to ensure that they are well prepared and can confidently and comfortably care for their baby at home. This includes careful instruction on how to use specialist equipment and, if required, how to prepare and give medications.
Our Going Home booklet contains useful advice and suggestions, and includes helpful tips, tools and things to remember, like:
- having your infant car seat fitted by a qualified professional before discharge day
- settling your baby into a good sleeping routine may take some weeks
- always washing hands and making sure visitors do the same before holding your baby, and other ways to reduce the risk of infection
- avoiding large crowds for one to two months after discharge, especially during the cold/flu season
- information about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
- what to do if baby gets sick
There’s information and descriptions about feeding and settling, communication, play and development, a list of useful contacts, as well as some important advice about ‘self-care’ for parents, including:
- take it one day at a time and try to plan for periods of sleep and rest
- use exercise to relieve stress and tension; even walking helps
- eat a balanced diet. Limit junk food. Drink plenty of water
- don’t try and do too much, avoid doing non-essential household jobs
Grace development clinic
With the increasing complexity of conditions being treated in the Grace Centre combined with improving survival rates, a demand for follow-up support and community care has emerged. Although the average length of stay for a baby admitted to the Grace Centre is 12 days; ongoing care and support continues long after discharge. Two thirds of babies treated in Grace return to the follow-up clinic.
The Grace Development Clinic is a specialist clinic—available by referral only—for babies after they leave the Grace Centre. This includes babies who have significant neurological problems, seizures, meningitis, lack of oxygen to the brain, brain haemorrhage, or who have cardiac disorders, undergone surgery, breathing abnormalities, or have metabolic disorders that may cause a risk to their development.
Because these babies have complex medical conditions, a developmental program is started during admission and the follow-up clinic team will make arrangements for support after discharge.
The Grace Development Clinic focuses on neuro-developmental assessments, early detection and referral to early intervention, and ongoing support designed to help these babies reach their developmental potential.
12 months and three years
Repeat Bayley Assessment and medical examination
For families who don’t live locally, our specialist team will make contact with the baby’s local NICU, GP and/or paediatrician and will link the family with community health services including Occupational Therapy, Physiotherapy, Speech Therapy, Early Intervention programs or other diagnostic services closer to home.
Acute Review clinic
Designed to facilitate early discharge from the Grace Centre, our nurses work closely with parents to help them transition smoothly to home and into the support of their local community services. Before your baby is discharged your initial clinic review will be arranged to provide ongoing support with weight management and feeding advice including linking with lactation and dietician services as required.
The Acute Review Clinic attend to blood work, ongoing review of wounds and clinical assessment for the period between discharge and your transition to community health services.
Research undertaken in Grace is designed to improve the experience and developmental outcomes for infants and their families.
Recent research highlights
‘Use of the General Movements Assessment with infants following surgery in the neonatal period’ Dr Cathryn Crowle, Senior Occupational Therapist.
This was the first study of its kind to investigate the use of the General Movements Assessment (GMA) with infants following major surgery in the first weeks of life.
The GMA was found to be an excellent tool for the prediction of neurodevelopmental outcomes including cerebral palsy in this unique population. This research has changed clinical practice in the area of early detection. The GMA has been adopted as standard care in our NICU and incorporated into the multidisciplinary follow-up clinic for all infants following surgery.
This means that our infants can now be referred to specialised early intervention therapy services in the first months of life, improving the outcomes for these infants and their families.
‘Developmental outcomes at eight or nine years of age following major surgery in infancy (DAISy8)’: Natalie Fairbairn, Senior Occupational Therapist.
The study is looking at the children’s motor skills, language, attention, cognition, behaviour and academic performance, and will compare the outcomes for children who have had early heart surgery or non-cardiac surgery with children who did not undergo early major surgery.
It will also help guide the length of time that we should be following up these children, and which children, in particular, we should be following up, and referring to early intervention services to maximise the development of children who have early surgery.
Current research occurring in Grace
Effects of Developmentally Supportive Caregiving in the neonatal unit (ECIDNA) study – Nadine Griffiths, CNC
The ECIDNA Study is nurse-led research exploring the influence.
In recent years survival rate of babies in the Grace Centre has increased to over 97 per cent. Despite this, not enough is known about the long-term effects of serious illness, congenital heart disease and complex surgical interventions on young lives.
The Grace Research Unit is a lead academic and clinical neonatal research unit with a commitment to multi-disciplinary research.
The Centre successfully supports a Nursing clinical research program, Medical honours students, Registrar/Fellow college projects and Masters and PhD researchers.
Our researchers collaborate with colleagues in multiple departments within the Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network, nationally and internationally and present at national and international conferences. As a centre of excellence for neonatal research, we are committed to research that will further our knowledge and challenge clinical and educational practices to improve the way we treat and care for newborns.
With the ultimate aim of ensuring that babies go home as healthy as possible and with the best chance of a bright future, members of the Grace Research Unit are actively engaged with:
- Cerebral Palsy Research Institute (Chair). The Cerebral Palsy Research Institute has recently joined the Grace Centre Research Unit as part of the Discipline of Paediatrics and Child Health at the University of Sydney to further build capacity to improve the lives of young babies and their families.
- International Multidisciplinary Prevention and Cure Team for Cerebral Palsy (IMPACT for CP) Steering Committee
- Newborn and paediatric Emergency Transport Service (NETS) Research Committee
- Postgraduate Research Students’ Conference Organising Committee
- SCHN Research Advisory Committee
- Scientific Advisory Committee
- Early Career Researchers Committee
Neonatal intensive care training (NIDCAP)
We have an international reputation for providing leading-edge training to doctors from medical facilities around the world, and to nurses and allied health professionals passionate about pursuing this vital field of clinical care.
We are a NIDCAP training centre and have established a developmental care education program that includes Family and Infant Neurodevelopmental Education (FINE) programs facilitating education for over 700 health professionals from across Australia.
We provide ongoing neonatal intensive care training for medical practitioners and nurses.
We have a wonderful team. The Grace Centre for Newborn Intensive Care is managed by a trinity of co-heads.
- Prof Nadia Badawi, AM – Neonatologist, Medical Director and co-Head of Grace and Chair, Cerebral Palsy Alliance
- Mrs Sarah Morris– Nurse Manager, co-Head of Grace
- Dr Himanshu Popat – Neonatologist, Clinical Lead and co-Head of Grace
They work together with a passionate, experienced and highly skilled multidisciplinary team which include:
Neonatologists are paediatricians specialising in saving the lives of critically ill newborns. Medical problems in premature and newborn babies can create challenges when vital organs are not developed adequately to function without intervention. Neonatologists evaluate and treat these medical problems.
Our neonatologist team include:
- Dr Raj Angiti
- Dr Stephanie Boyd
- Dr Kathryn Carmo-Browning
- Dr Hannah Dalrymple
- Dr Robert Halliday
- Dr Bhavesh Mehta
- Dr Ahmed Moustafa
- Dr Archana Priyadarshi
- Dr Amit Trivedi
Our nurses are specifically trained to care for neonates and premature babies with complex needs. They are experienced in interpreting the silent signals and gestures of critically ill infants and support parents in caring for their baby.
The neonatal nurses administer medications, perform complex procedures, work with sophisticated technology, and consult with a multidisciplinary healthcare team to co-ordinate all aspects of the baby’s care. Our nurses understand the fears and anxieties experienced by parents and provide emotional support and reassurance.
The neonatal nursing team is supported by nurses in a number of different roles. The Nurse Unit Management (NUM) team provides support to staff, baby’s and families on a shift by shift basis helping to co-ordinate patient movement in and out of the unit.
They are responsible for the unit and overall patient care. The NUM is the best person with which to raise any unresolved patient-related concerns or issues.
Members of the Grace NUM team include:
- Emma Carey
- Bianca Knott
- Holly Murphy
- Bronwyn Parkinson
- Jayde Rootes
The Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (NP) is an advanced practice nursing role. The Grace NP’s conduct comprehensive health assessments, diagnose and treat complex health problems, manage acute and chronic illnesses, prescribe medication and work collaboratively with teams within the Hospital and in the community, to create a more holistic support system for patients and their families. Members of the Grace NP team include:
- Miranda Agyemang
- Amy Barker
- Kristen James-Nunez
The Clinical Nurse Consultant (CNC) is also an advanced practice nursing role. The role is focused on the translation of evidence to practice through research, education, consultancy, system support, strategic planning and leadership. Members of the Grace CNC team include:
- Alyssa Fraser
- Nadine Griffiths
- Kaye Spence
The Education team in Grace consists of both Nurse Educators (NE) and Clinical Nurse Educators (CNE). The NE’s role is to oversee the education team whilst planning, facilitating and evaluating evidence based education programs to improve the outcomes of sick neonates. The CNE’s role is to provide orientation, mandatory training and assessment, competency development in basic and advanced nursing skills, and speciality education in conjunction with the Nurse Educator (NE).
Members of the Grace CNC team include:
- Kirsty Minter (Nurse Educator)
- Priya Govindaswamy (Acting Nurse Educator/Clinical Nurse Educator)
- Alyssa Fraser (Clinical Nurse Educator)
- Jill Lotoaniu (Clinical Nurse Educator)
- Renae Gengaroli (Clinical Nurse Educator)
- Jessica Banks (Clinical Nurse Educator)
- Kahlee Doyle (Clinical Nurse Educator)
- Maree Wooldridge (Clinical Nurse Educator)
Allied health professionals
Providing essential service to our patients and their parents, our physiotherapists help with handling and positioning advice, respiratory care and assessment of musculoskeletal, neuromuscular or genetic conditions.
Speech therapists work closely with babies to develop pleasurable experiences around feeding and provide stimuli to help them learn to feed.
Occupational therapists help each baby to bond, explore their environment and engage in care activities such as a nappy change. They teach parents how to help their baby be comfortable, and provide development intervention when parents can’t be with their baby.
Members of the Grace Allied Health team include:
- Dr Cathryn Crowle (Senior Occupational Therapist)
- Natalie Fairbairn (Senior Occupational Therapist)
- Madeleine Sproule (Senior Occupational Therapist)
- Michelle Jurez (Physiotherapist)
- Kate Thompson (Physiotherapist)
- Jane Pettigrew (Senior Speech Therapist)
A lactation specialist is a certified nurses who advises, guides and helps with breastfeeding and expressing. They can provide support to help mothers successfully breastfeed while in hospital and continue when discharged home. Our lactation nurses work with new mothers on all aspects of feeding for each baby, which may include fluids and a nutrition through nasal or intravenous drip, or a gastric tube that carries milk into the baby’s stomach. Members of the lactation team include:
- Gabrielle Kerslake
- Helen Mercieca
- Kylie Peach
Our staff are trained and experienced in assisting families with a baby in intensive care. Focused on supporting the emotional wellbeing of parents, social workers can help with antenatal support, family relationship concerns and accessing support services in the community. Social workers advocate for families, and are there to provide grief and bereavement support to families in cases of the death of their newborn. Members of the social work team include:
- Holly Gittany
- Shannon Tracey
Their reasons are many and varied, but those inspired to support and fundraise for Grace NICU are inspired by the common goal of improving each baby's and family's journey.
The Grace Gala occurs each year raising funds to purchase equipment and support research and education initiatives. We welcome this opportunity to publicly recognise the Grace Gala Committee’s contributions and share their remarkable generosity of spirit.
In 2007 Angela’s daughter Amelia spent her first days in the Grace Centre for Newborn Intensive Care and when she was two days old had life-saving surgery. She is now a thriving teenager thanks to the incredible Grace team. Angela Bishop is a high profile and well-respected journalist at Network 10 Australia and is a founding member of the Grace Gala committee. Angela not only contributes as a committee member at each meeting but she also assists each year with being a co-host at the event running the annual heads and tails game, interviewing special guests and families and supporting the event in all capacities.
Lisa is a Human Resource professional with extensive experience, sought after for her application of strategic people and change programs. Starting in the corporate arena, Lisa co-founded HR Connections in 2002 and the consultancy has grown successfully for nearly two decades. Now also Principal in Futures Builders Group, Lisa advises clients across cultural transformation, executive coaching, leadership team development, mergers & acquisitions, succession planning and policy development. Lisa is a past Chair of the Family Advisory Council, The Children’s Hospital at Westmead and a Founding Member of the Grace Gala Committee. Lisa has 3 children and is married to Mark.
Pepper’s daughter Taylor had lifesaving heart surgery at only a few days old and spent a week in the Grace Centre for Newborn Intensive Care. Taylor is now a thriving teenager and has a deep love and passion for horses. Pepper has been on the Grace Gala committee for over 10 years and has supported the Grace Centre personally along with her family who has supported pioneering research into stem cell and 3D technology benefiting all future cardiac patients. Pepper is also mum to Taylor’s younger brother Dylan.
Claire’s daughter Cleo was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect at 30 weeks gestation. At only 11 days old, Cleo underwent heart surgery by the team at the Grace Centre for Newborn Intensive Care. Claire had been supporting the Grace Gala long before this occurred but once Cleo was born, Claire was even more invested and determined to continue supporting this worthy organisation that helped save her daughter's life. Every year, through Claire’s family jewellery business, Aristides Fine Jewels, Claire designs very special limited edition Grace bracelets which are sold at the event with all proceeds going back to the Grace Centre. Claire is also mum to Enzo and wife to Michael.
Alexandra Hopper Irwin
Alexandra's daughter Darcy was born with a congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH), a life-threatening condition discovered during a routine morphology scan while 18 weeks pregnant. Darcy had surgery three days after birth and today is a healthy, thriving toddler thanks to the Grace Centre for Newborn Intensive Care. Alexandra joined the committee in late 2019 and hopes to make an impactful contribution to the continued success of the Grace Gala. Alexandra is a Brand Manager in the financial sector and lives with her husband Luke, daughter Darcy and son Freddie.
Alexandra is the director of Charles Lloyd, a boutique property-focused marketing agency in Sydney. Alexandra joined the committee in late 2019 after being introduced by Alexandra Hopper Irwin after her own experience of being a mum of a baby in the NICU. Alexandra has since designed all the marketing collateral for the Grace Gala pro bono and has been a heavily committed and contributing committee member since she joined. Alexandra is mum to a son and identical twin girls and is married to John.
Megan divides her work as a general dentist between 2 private practices and the University of Sydney where she is employed as a Clinical tutor for the Faculty of Dentistry. She is also on the Assessment Committee for the Dental Council of NSW - a regulatory body ensuring appropriate standards of dental care are met within the profession. She is a mother to 4 children – Claudia, Kiran, Harrison & Elisha and is married to Gagan. Megan’s friendship with Nadia Badawi goes back 18 years and has spurred on a passion for helping young babies and children with disability. She has been an active Committee Member of the Grace Gala for over 10 years
Angela has been managing the logistics, planning and creative execution of the Grace Gala for the past 10 years through her event management agency, Vanilla Bean Events. During this time she has worked closely with the committee on strategically increasing the funds raised annually to now raising over $1million at the 2021 event. Over the years withs strategic planning and development, the event has developed a strong following with a loyal donor database of supporters. The event sells out annually to the invitation-only guest list and is one of the highlights on the social calendar. The Grace Gala has established itself as being one of the most successful black-tie fundraising balls in the country. Angela is mum of two children, Jamie and Stella and is married to Anthony.