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A glimpse inside a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) is not somewhere many people experience. Neonatal refers to the first 28 days after birth and the nurses who staff this unit are a special group. I had my first, only and memorable experience of the NICU in April 2017 when my first grandson was born. This little snippet gives a small glimpse into this world from the perspective of a Healthcare Executive and a Grandmother.

When I arrived at the hospital to visit our new arrival, it was not with flowers and balloons. The first thing I remember is the locked doors to the unit and the scrub station. We’ve all seen the doctor’s scrubbing up before surgery on TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy. This felt as surreal as being a cast member on one of those shows. We read the instructions and removed our jewelry. This ritual of cleansing could have life or death consequences that were staggering and incredibly sobering.

The NICU isn’t the homecoming we planned for or expected. It is full of noise, strangers, and machines. Many of these strangers will become your unanticipated friends as you bond in this unexpected place where privacy is not a given. The volunteers and staff know this. We were there over Easter and were welcomed on Easter morning with a lovely banner with our grandson’s name to personalize it. These things are so small but in this highly charged, emotive place, they bring tears. Someone understands.

NICU Parenting Questions

Are we visiting enough? Asking enough questions? Are we parenting right? The nurses were so encouraging. There is no ‘right’ in this new normal. Our son-in-law felt connected by reading The Chronicles of Narnia out loud for hours on end. We found that NICU nurses would pause to listen too. It created a sense of home more than anything I could imagine.

The NICU nurses encouraged us to touch, talk, laugh, and cry. They brought empathy, calm, professionalism, confidence and humanity into this place. Most of our nurses were NICU moms themselves.

The invitation to attend daily rounds was another new experience. Reserved for the parents, we were privileged to attend one time as grandparents. This is where the team of over 10 highly skilled professionals consulted and discussed the plans and goals of the day for our grandson. This was certainly a clinical discussion yet we felt welcome and involved. Time was taken to make eye contact with us and to give us an explanation of the plan.

The plan on our day was to wean our grandson off some of his breathing support. It was a well-orchestrated dance of professionals who each knew the next step. It didn’t go well. Our grandson wasn’t quite ready for the next step toward independent breathing. I had to sit down. These amazing nurses and specialists took everything in stride and said we’d try again tomorrow. I will never forget their calm, confident actions as the machines were beeping and buzzing. It brought it all back that this was not a sure thing for our little man.

Leaving the NICU

13 days later, our grandson went home. It was a quiet return to a quiet house. Not one with banners and streamers in the front yard. He was still fragile and it would be a slow process of recovery for everyone. None of us will ever forget the rough start. Our daughter went to the NICU annual reunion and is now part of an exclusive community, one we didn’t even know about, that is comprised of some very special nurses, doctors, parents, and little fighters. It will be no surprise when our daughter starts volunteering to make those Easter banners for someone else’s precious child.

NHS Solutions is currently seeking an Interim NICU Director. We have an opportunity for an experienced leader who wants to make an immediate difference. Additionally, we are always looking for Interim Nurse Leadership in a variety of specialties.

NHS Solutions is an industry leading specialty interim staffing firm. Our experienced support staff provides exceptional full service field support, operational excellence and on-boarding expertise. Contact Renee Lindberg, Director of Recruiting at reneel@nhss.com today or upload your resume directly here