Congratulations to Kate Higgins, RN, for being named the 2022 NICU Hero Award winner! Higgins cares for families in the NICU at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts.
We asked parents across the U.S. to nominate their NICU Hero, someone who exemplifies exceptional compassionate family care in the NICU. We received heartfelt nominations from more than 20 states, and more than 5,000 votes were cast in the contest. The winner was announced on November 4 at the 2022 NICU Community Conference.
A special connection
Kate Higgins, RN, a NICU nurse since 2001, was nominated for the NICU Hero Award by Anne Marie Rivard for providing exceptional NICU care during their stay. Rivard’s twins were born at 34 weeks, and her son Maxwell spent 18 days in the NICU, while his twin, Benjamin, spent 21 days in the NICU.
“The day that we met Kate was such a difficult day,” said Rivard. She had not been able to see her babies yet due to her own health condition. Once she was finally able to get to the NICU, she met Higgins, who immediately reassured her that her babies were going to be okay and that they were in good hands.
But Rivard’s daily routine took a toll on her. She was pumping around the clock, taking care of her 14-month-old at home, commuting over an hour to the hospital, caring for her boys in the NICU, and then driving home and doing it all over again the next day. “Sometimes I would be crying before I even walked in the door,” she recalls. “Kate just always knew the right thing to say. She acknowledged and validated my feelings and urged me to take care of myself so I could be the best mom for my babies.”
Coming full circle
For Higgins, caring for families in the NICU is a full circle experience. She is a NICU graduate herself, and absolutely loves her job as a NICU nurse, combining patient care with family care. “I get to take care of families during a very vulnerable time,” she said. “It’s not lost on me that this is supposed to be a happy time in their lives, and it ends up being one of the scariest.”
“Kate is someone that exemplifies compassion,” said Julie Cadogen, NICU Nurse Director at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “She is a steadfast colleague at the bedside, she is smart, she is dynamic. She is someone that when you are in a crisis and you are taking care of somebody’s baby, you want to see her next to you.”
“[The NICU] can be a lonely place,” said Rivard. “You obviously see that there are other parents there, but you don’t generally have any connection with them.” Luckily she was able to make a meaningful connection with Higgins. Having Higgins at the bedside, one who really knows what it means to provide compassionate care in the NICU, really helped Rivard and her partner, Jonathan, during this stressful experience.
But there’s another fun development in this story. At the time of her boys’ birth, Rivard was actually a nurse in another department at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. She soon felt the pull to pursue becoming a NICU nurse, thanks in large part to her connection with Higgins. “I was intimidated to make the switch,” said Rivard, “She encouraged me every time she saw me.”
Rivard and her family have since moved out of state, but Rivard is happy to share that she is now a NICU nurse in a level III NICU. And she has Higgins to thank for it. “I owe not only my boys’ lives to her but also my career. It’s the best job I’ve ever had and I couldn’t be happier.”
Higgins also absolutely loves her job as a NICU nurse. “I hope I get to do this for as long as I can.” We hope so too!
Congratulations to Kate Higgins, RN! Thank you to Anne Marie Rivard for nominating Kate for the 2022 NICU Hero Award, thank you to all the parents who nominated their heroes, and thank you especially to all the NICU professionals who provide this special care for the babies and families in their units.
Watch the full video below or watch on YouTube.
The 2022 NICU Hero Award is supported by
About Hand to Hold®:
Hand to Hold® is a national nonprofit 501(c)(3) that is dedicated to providing personalized emotional support, education and community to parents who have had children in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) or the loss of a baby. Hand to Hold is removing barriers for support by growing a hybrid model of in-person and virtual support in service to their mission. Support is provided in English or Spanish to parents at no cost to families and all support is designed with the emotional, physical and social needs of the NICU parent. For more information, visit HandtoHold.org.