Part 2. My Impressions as a “Young” NICU Nurse
In Hebrew, a new nurse in a unit or ward is often called a “young” nurse; I am then a quite “young” NICU nurse, although I am in my fifties…
I went through a long and colorful journey of education and work before I became a neonatal nurse. I have always taken care of children and babies. In my last professional role, before I went to nursing school, I helped children with special needs to become integrated in the general educational school system, and also gave guidance to their parents. It seems, though, that I have always felt an attraction to the health professions; I was lucky to witness their impact and importance while I volunteered for the non-profit organization “Baby Huggers”, a project that brought me to various hospitals and to so many babies. I was already a mother of three children and not young when I decided I to go to nursing school to become a nurse.
Both during my volunteer work and my nursing practices in different hospital wards, I noticed the complexity of the relationships between patients, families and caregivers. Such a mixture of distress and intense feelings – sadness and often helplessness on the one hand, and happiness, excitement, containment, patience, hope and professionalism on the other.
Yet, there was something different about the NICU at Meir Medical Center that made me feel immediately connected to it. The NIDCAP principles implemented in this unit affect its atmosphere, its characteristics, the caregiving itself, and the relationships between parents and staff. Perhaps the following every-day life sequence may better illustrate what I mean: early morning, I get ready, I prepare sandwiches for my children and for myself, take the shopping list with me, enter the car, listen to the radio – news, elections, tension in the south border of my country, traffic jams ahead, a call home to wake my son up for school, a call to mom to check on her, in a rush to take the lift and to be at the NICU on time, to release my colleagues from the night shift; I open the Unit’s doors and then… the lights are dimmed, the place is quiet, my mobile phone remains in the locker outside. I disconnect myself from the outside world. For eight hours now I will be in a separate universe – in charge of several preterm babies. I have to take care of them; I help ease their experience of being out of the womb before their due date; I provide them with soft and containing touch, I am ever mindful of how important it is to be accurate, to keep a low profile even when I have to be efficient and quick. As I see it, I have to safeguard that developing brain; I have to care for the medical needs of that baby and for the quality of his life to come; to leave as few traces of distress as possible in his inner, still intact “memory-board”. I find my work as a NICU nurse to be a weird and magic combination of intensive care, softness, pampering, containment, serenity and gentle touch.
I put a comforting hand on a mother’s shoulder, I encourage her to touch her baby, to calmly put her hands on his body, and then guide her to hold him skin-to-skin – thus trying to help them bond by little steps. I am part of the parents’ first steps in caregiving; I witness their fear and excitement, and I feel I am fully there to help them conquer the confidence in themselves they so much need. Their bliss and excitement penetrates me and my own happiness grows.
The work at the NICU has high standards, forever demanding my alertness and skills to work as part of a team. The NIDCAP approach gives me the understanding and the tools to provide care – which can be oftentimes intrusive and distressing – in a soft and sensitive way for both the baby and the family. In my view, our ever growing ability to make this delicate combination possible, is what makes our work with preterm infants so important and fulfilling.
– Orna Netzer, RN
Israel NIDCAP Training Center
Meir Medical Center
Kfar Saba, Israel
Please see below for the link to the first part of the NIDCAP Care as Experienced by Two Nurses, One a Veteran, One a Novice series: Part 1. My reflections as a veteran nurse on the evolution of NIDCAP Care in our NICU, by Michelle Julie Meyer, RN.