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Seasonal Mapping of NICU Temperature

Thomas, Karen A. PhD, RN-NIC1; Magbalot, Almita BSN, RN2; Shinabarger, Kelley BSN, RNC-NIC3; Mokhnach, Larisa RNC1; Anderson, Marilyn MS, BSN, RN1; Diercks, Kristi BSN, RN1; Millar, April BSN, RN1; Thorngate, Lauren PhD(c), RN, CCRN1; Walker, Wendy MN, RN1; Dilback, Nancy BSN, RN1; Berkan, Maureen RN1

Section Editor(s): DOWLING, DONNA PHD, RN

doi: 10.1097/ANC.0b013e3181d50d31
Original Research

PURPOSE To create a thermal map of ambient air, radiant, and evaporative temperatures and humidity throughout the NICU nursery by season across a calendar year.

SUBJECTS Each cubicle of the 32-bed NICU, distributed across 5 rooms, in a level III nursery was measured.

METHODS Temperatures were recorded at a consistent time on one day during January, April, July, and October.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES An electronic monitor (QUESTemp° 34; Quest Technologies, Oconomowoc, Wisconsin) was used to measure dry bulb, wet bulb, and globe thermometer temperatures.

RESULTS Analysis of variance revealed statistically significant (P < .000) differences in season, room, and season by room interaction. Room ambient air temperatures differed by less than 2°F across season. Radiant temperature paralleled air temperature. Humidity, the predominant difference across season, produced evaporative temperatures considerably lower than room air temperature, and the gradient between mean nursery dry bulb temperature and wet bulb temperature was 9.3°F in summer and 16.8°F in winter.

CONCLUSIONS The thermal map revealed seasonal thermal differences, particularly in humidity level and evaporative temperature. Room temperature alone does not reflect the total thermal environment. Recommendations include periodic assessment of nurseries along with air, evaporative, and radiant temperatures as well as humidity to fully appreciate the impact of the thermal environment on infants.

1University of Washington Medical Center, Seattle; 2Department of Family and Child Nursing, University of Washington, Seattle; and 3Seattle Children's Hospital, Seattle, Washington.

Address correspondence to Karen A. Thomas, PhD, RN-NIC, University of Washington, Seattle, Box 357262, WA 98195;

© 2010 National Association of Neonatal Nurses