I have worked as a nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for six and a half years. My favorite part of the job is seeing the babies get well, go home and grow into healthy little kids. I love seeing the incremental progress they make. It is also great watching the parents learn to care for their babies and take over in preparation to take them home.
The hardest thing about working in the NICU is caring for babies who don't make it or have a poor quality of life – such as those born at extremely low birth weight. It is hard emotionally to care for a baby that might not be able to become a self-sufficient person.
NICU nurses support parents by educating them on what they can do to help their baby, and by giving them as many opportunities as possible to be involved in their care. I encourage and try to make it possible for parents to hold their baby, even if he or she is on a ventilator.
My hospital does kangaroo care which is skin-to-skin holding. The parents who do this with their babies have great bonding and it helps to regulate the baby’s heart rate. I also try to educate parents on what is going on with their baby and give them resources for when they go home so that they still have a support network.
Technological equipment in the NICU is always changing and improving. The biggest change was moving to computerized charting. This does some quality control for you – for example, it double checks medication when you scan it into the computer and adds up fluid levels for you. It sometimes takes more time but overall is worth it.
Seeing babies who have spent months in the NICU get to go home is always very rewarding and memorable. There was one baby who had gastroschisis (born with intestines outside of his body) and he was in the NICU for five months. He had multiple surgeries and went home with a G-tube – a tube that goes into his tummy to feed him. Now he is three and doing really well.
We have an annual preemie party at the hospital and invite any family who has had a baby in the NICU for a month or longer. Going to those parties is really rewarding. It is great to see the progress that kids have made and the outcomes of babies you have cared for.