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.