Updated: Nov 17
There are so many things that come to mind when I tell someone “I am a NICU Nurse” Normally their response goes something like, “Wow, that must be so hard and so sad to work with sick babies.
How do you do that?”
Yes, that is a true statement. I could tell you about the babies born
VERY early struggling for their lives.
Far too early,
To drug addicted mothers,
With life altering diagnosis,
Requiring emergent surgeries,
Parents who don’t always care,
Requiring harsh procedures our tiny patients must endure,
Needed many surgeries (more than most adults),
The micro preemie “death spells” each preemie faces any time their bodies face discomfort,
The clinical trials we must try (to help more babies in the future),
The diagnostic tests:
& Chest X-rays etc.!
Our preemies must endure all of this in order for us to monitor their well-being!
Add the sterile line changes we must do to protect our most vulnerable, The meticulous scrubbing, chlorhexidine wiping, sanitizing, sterile gloving, painful hand washing so much so because I don’t’ want to be the reason a baby gets a blood stream infection.
I could tell you about the many orgiastic and nasogastric tubes I have inserted over and over due to little hands pulling them out (or retching them out), and the sadness I have experienced sitting in on a family conference while parents try to comprehend their new babies life altering diagnosis. The many conversations I have had with mothers over the phone at 2AM asking “how is my baby doing, will she survive this?”
I could tell you about the frustration I have had with Attendings, NNP, PAs, Surgeons, Specialists, or Practitioners when I advocate for my baby “Something is wrong,” only to have a reply of “Tell the Resident,” or “Continue to monitor the baby.” I could tell you about the nights & days I literally don’t sit or drink an ounce of water trying to complete a Septic Work Up because my baby is going septic and needs my full attention. The amount of codes where a baby is truly hanging on for dear life.
I could tell you about the tears I have wiped from a mother’s cheek while taking a baby off of life support as her baby passes in her arm. And the wailing from her lungs as she asks “Why is this happening to my baby?” Where the pain is so hard I have to escort other family out of the room to relieve the parent’s personal anxiety.
I could try to explain to you how hard it is to maintain professional boundaries when you have invested so much time, love, and tender care to my “special baby.” And how hard it is, when “due to staffing” I can’t care for the baby and must take another assignment. And the times I feel I didn’t do enough for my patient, cry in the break-room or in the hall, to take a few minutes to compose myself.
BUT I COULD ALSO TELL YOU
The feeling of giving a baby it’s first bath with mom and dad (helping them with wires, and tubes) and making it feel special!
I could tell you about the hugs, happiness, and smiles when I walk into the room as the Nurse coming on to care for their baby. I could tell you about feeding a baby his or her first bottle with mom or attempting to breast feed for the first time after 3 months! And laughing as dad burps the baby for the first time. I could tell you about my stealth moves tiptoeing in the darkness to check my baby in their isolate and the Cirque du Soleil moves I make to prevent breaking a sterile field.
I could tell you about Kadence, Faith, Talia, Christopher, and so many more patient’s where I build long lasting, loving, relationships with my families as their “favorite nurse,” or “mommy nurse” and the feeling I get being able to care for their baby.
I could tell you about the feeling of being able to SEND YOUR BABY HOME, and the immense happiness I get from being the nurse to take the last pulse ox & wires off their bundle of joy. I could explain the feeling of a babies tiny hand wrapped around my finger as I assess the pulses or change the leads on his/her chest.
I could tell you about the immense pride I have for working at a leading Children’s Hospital where research, newest therapies, and outcomes are the BEST. I could tell you about the bonds I have created with co-workers, Respiratory therapists who are like family, OT/PT kindest sweetest most effective therapies provided, or Music Therapists (who I’m pretty sure I love just as much as the babies), & of course Doctors who know you by first and last name (and High Five you on your way into the unit).
I could try to explain the happiness of the last hug before the family leaves the hospital & the amount of Thanks I receive someone seems my badge or NICU logo on my jacket.
I could tell you…..but it wouldn’t be enough. These words would never fully explain what it is like to work with these tiny lives. Nothing can prepare you for the physical & emotional investment into this vocation. And that is the beauty of being a NICU Nurse.
If you are seeking a more "in depth conversation" head over to check out my podcast! Episode #1 #2 and #10 are all great resources for you to hear more details about being a NICU Nurse, NNP, and the working dynamics of a level IV NICU!
Another great resource for you BELOW. I was featured on The Morning Rounds and talked all things NICU Nursing. Dynamics, my personal journey, NICU Nurse Tips & Tricks!
Tori Meskin BSN RNC-NIC has been a clinician since 2012, works in acute care/inpatient NICU & Pediatric settings in southern California. She is a blogger, podcaster, NICU & Pediatric Critical Care RN, MSN student, a Barco Uniforms Ambassador, and Brave beginnings affiliate. Find her at www.tipsfromtori.com or email@example.com