Newswise — Loyola Medicine's neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) is celebrating 30 years of caring for some of the smallest and sickest newborns. 

"It gives a sense of joy and accomplishment when you work with these small babies," said Sachin Amin, MD, medical director of Loyola's NICU. "When they come back thriving and meeting great milestones, it really makes us proud."

Since opening in 1987, Loyola's Level III, 50-bed NICU offers the latest technology, therapies and techniques, and serves as a national model for specialized protocols and practices in the care of premature infants. The current staff includes 30 nurses who have been working on the unit since the beginning.

Over the years, the nurses have gone above and beyond caring for their patients by making Halloween costumes, organizing Santa visits and celebrating milestones with the families. 

"We have so many people who retire from this area because they can't see themselves doing anything else," said Janice Hart, RN, who has worked in the NICU for 30 years.

Among the 10,000 babies treated in Loyola's NICU are five sets of conjoined twins and thousands of twins, triplets, quadruplets and even quintuplets. The staff also cared for a baby who was born at 9.2 ounces in 2004. Until 2016, she held the record for the world's smallest surviving baby.

To continue the celebration, Loyola will hold a reunion of former NICU families in the spring. 

"Sometimes we have babies here who stay three or four months," said Linda J. Juretschke, PhD, APN/NNP. "I'm always so happy to see our babies go home, but we're just as happy to see them come back with the parents doing well and the babies thriving."