The outstanding care neonatal professionals give to NICU families is recognized and applauded each year during the NICU Heroes Awards, presented by Mead Johnson Nutrition and Hand to Hold, a national nonprofit Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) parent support organization. This year, families from 30 U.S. states nominated neonatal nurses, physicians, and other healthcare professionals who helped make a difference for their preterm or medically fragile newborns. Two of this year’s four finalists are from Colorado: neonatal nurses Kathy Knoll and Natalie Sorrentino.
Finalist Kathy Knoll works at the Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children in Denver, Colorado. Knoll chose to work in neonatal intensive care because she was fascinated by the dedication and expertise the nurses have for their tiny patients. She also feels empowered when teaching parents how to care for their baby and watching them grow in confidence as a parent, and wants parents to feel important in the care of their baby.
Throughout her 16 years working in hospital NICUs, Knoll has seen her fair share of challenges and rewards. She has seen parents struggle with the emotional side of having a baby in the NICU. Calming parents’ anxiety about their baby’s fragile condition and educating them on what they can do to help is extremely rewarding for Knoll.
Knoll was nominated as a NICU Hero by Annalise Rossler for Knoll’s outstanding care of daughter, Piper. Born at 28 weeks, Piper was sensitive and difficult to care for. This NICU stay was especially difficult, as the Rossler family had to commute six hours between their home and the hospital. Rossler says that Knoll went above and beyond the call of duty as a nurse in her care for Piper and her family. Her fellow nurse, Carrie Polifka, also recognized that Knoll is a true NICU Hero and recommended her for the award.
Natalie Sorrentino of St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction, Colorado is another finalist for this year’s awards. The neonatal nurse was first exposed to the NICU when she was in nursing school. There she fell in love with the mighty little patients and their families. After just one rotation as a student, she felt that neonatal nursing was her calling. Sorrentino has now been a NICU nurse for nine years. She cites being a NICU flight nurse as one of her biggest challenges due to the major responsibility of transporting small lives to higher acuity care. Her most rewarding experience during this time was surprising a mother with the opportunity to hold her very fragile, still intubated infant for the very first time on Christmas Day.
It is not uncommon for NICU nurses to be considered part of the family. This was the case with Becky Price and daughter Bella Grace, who nominated Sorrentino for the NICU Heroes Awards. Sorrentino’s patience and presence provided the Price family with strength and confidence, exemplifying what it means to be a NICU Hero. It was her bond with patients and their families that lead Clinical Nurse Manager Kindra Loyd to also recommend Sorrentino for the awards.
Congratulations to Kathy Knoll and Natalie Sorrentino! Be on the lookout for stories from our other two finalists, neonatal nurses Michelle White and Marilee Lawson.