Nursing the tiniest of patients

Kelley Nunemaker is a nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit at Children’s. In honor of National Nurses Week, Kelley tells us about caring for the tiniest and most fragile patients and why she loves it.


Kelley Nunemaker, RN

As a neonatal intensive care unit nurse, I have the opportunity to care for the most fragile of patients. At times the patients are the size of my hand. With that come unique responsibilities and needs. While my nursing skills have to be keen, my knowledge set continually evolving, and my attention to detail flawless, I also have to be extremely gentle, aware of every touch, sound and stimulation my patient has to endure. Neonatal ICU nurses are extremely protective because we care for the most defenseless patients. Even the meekest of nurses can become confrontational if it is the best for their patient. In some cases we primary nurse a patient, meaning every time we work we care for the same patient. A special bond forms between the nurse, the patient and their families. In my case, I have cared for a beautiful and sassy little girl for over five months. Her life has defied the odds and I have been so lucky to have a front row seat.

My patient is not just the tiny one lying in the bed; their families are also in my care. The little one they have hoped for, prayed for, longed for and dreamed for is faced with many difficulties and at times may not look at all like what they anticipated. So Neonatal ICU nurses help bridge that gap. We talk to the baby, encourage the parents to touch them, watch for things that make the babies unique and share that with the parents, put bows on their heads, and find cute blankets for their beds – anything we can do help them continue to see their baby as their baby. We also learn to be crafty and creative as we make holiday cards from our patients to their families, decorate handprints and footprints, and try to infuse a little cheer in sometimes very dismal situations. We hold hands, give hugs and provide teaching to parents trying to navigate complex medical problems, equipment, monitors and alarms.

I chose the field of nursing because I wanted to find a job that I would love. A job that while challenging, had purpose and would give me the opportunity to make a difference and to give back. When I first stepped into a Neonatal ICU during my clinicals as a nursing student, it just clicked and I knew that it was where I wanted to be. I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to work with the babies and their parents, and that I found a job that I absolutely love.


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2 Responses to Nursing the tiniest of patients

  1. Melissa May 10, 2012 at 2:10 pm #

    God bless you Kelly for loving her and her family like you do. I am also blessed to know them. May God continue His work through you and her family.

  2. Doris Alexander May 9, 2012 at 2:53 pm #

    Thank you soooo much for using the talent God has given you. My daughter was there many years ago….and well taken care of. I remember when I would walk in the room and talk to her…..her heartbeat would go faster…..I know they are very sensitive babes. She had pd surgery. She had some eye damage from the oxygen back then….other than that she was truely blessed with no health problems. God bless you and your love for mankind.

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