Recreating the perfect environment for babies
February 15 2012, 4:57 pm

When a baby is battling for health, temperature maintenance is crucial to its recovery. The twelve state-of-the-art incubators soon to be added to the hospital’s arsenal promise to significantly reduce the likelihood of common side-effects associated with poor infant temperature control.

The new isolettes * will be used for patients who require special care across different hospital wards, augmenting the twelve currently housed in the Neonatal Unit. Sheri Waldron, Director of Operations, managed the submission for funding to the Foundation, and is now overseeing the acquisition of the new batch of isolettes.

‘Most infants are in the care of the RCH because they require medical intervention such as complicated surgical procedures not available elsewhere in Victoria, and many already have temperature problems. When babies get sick they lose their ability to keep their own temperature, and when they become cold they become stressed, unwell and can develop other problems.’

Currently nurses must unswaddle infants in order to properly monitor their breathing and colour, disturbing the child’s sleep and causing unnecessary discomfort. The isolette’s transparent perspex shell means an infant can rest unclothed, with nurses easily and visibly monitoring them. Isolated from disruption and noise, babies housed in these self-contained incubators enjoy a reduced exposure to infections and viruses.

The new models feature advanced thermoregulation and condensation management systems, and can be ventilated,  oxygenated and humidified. The incubators form a tiny, temporary ecosystem for the child and allow nurses to adapt and adjust the unit’s conditions to suit the specific needs of each infant.

Increased accuracy of observation without interruption, and a strong focus on early intervention means that, as  babies learn to manage their own temperature, susceptibility to further complications and risk diminishes substantially.

Fitted with wheels and brakes,  the units are completely mobile – they can be kept in line of sight of nurse stations or travel safely to theatre or imaging without disturbing or compromising the integrity of the incubator’s delicate environment.

The Royal Children’s Hospital’s commitment to supplementing new technologies with appropriate education is something of which Sheri Waldron is acutely aware. ‘At the end of the day, you can buy the best equipment in the world but, in  order to really improve the quality of care, you have to provide the education for staff alongside it’.


The Foundation supports the purchase of life-changing and life-saving equipment used across many departments of the hospital. Find out more about donating for Equipment and Technology here.

* An isolette is a self-contained incubator unit that provides a controlled heat, humidity, and oxygen microenvironment for the isolation and care of premature and low-birth weight neonates.

This story was featured in the Foundation’s annual review book, The Impact of Giving, read our online version for more stories about the RCH.