Neonatal Nurses Day is a celebration of the nurses that care for our babies born premature and babies with complications. The theme for 2017 is special. The theme “We Save Babies” came from the voices of our NICU Nurses at the National Association of Neonatal Nurses (NANN) conference in 2016. NANN organizers listened to the voices of nurses and brought this idea forward to celebrate Neonatal Nurses Day 2017.
Our NICU nurses planted a seed for my own organization, Courageous Steps, during my 56-day NICU stay with my 30-weeker. As an entrepreneur business owner before my son’s birth, I held the reigns and responsibility of every decision. Airlifted to a Children’s Miracle Network hospital from a rural Oregon town with pre-eclampsia, I no longer controlled my life and had to trust our emergency personnel, physicians and NICU nurses to make decisions for us. I lost the courage that came so easily before through this traumatic experience, and it is the relationship I held with our NICU nurses that helped me learn to lead again.
Bedside with my 2 pound, 8 ounce preemie for 56 days with a cast on my right hand, I was terrified to touch such a fragile baby. As a right-hander with a cast that felt 2x the size of my baby, my NICU nurses helped me find ways to care for my son left-handed. I learned to change my son’s diaper. I learned to breastfeed holding my son in my right elbow and feed with my left hand.
Three weeks in to my NICU stay, I sobbed to one of my NICU nurses simply wanting a clean pair of underwear from my home 100 miles away. The next day my husband showed up, took me home overnight to pack, and brought me back refreshed.
These examples led me to put words to their actions in graduate school, build my own organization, Courageous Steps, and now give back to our NICU nurses through meaningful organizational health and employee engagement practices. In an interview with Mary Coughlin MS, NNP, RNC-E, the President & Global Learning Officer of Caring Essentials Collaborative, neonatal nursing as a career has experienced challenges in recent years that have not gone unnoticed. Organizations such as Courageous Steps and Caring Essentials Collaborative are responding with fresh, new support resources to care for the NICU nurse. Our hope is the NICU nurses that care for our babies at the bedside will grow, engage, reflect, lead and transform so they can do their work even better.My hope is that NICU nurses reading this will know support resources are just a click away.
A quote that has fueled my change learned from our NICU nurses is, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world” – Mahatma Gandhi. Parents have an opportunity to become better caregivers of our babies both in the NICU and after graduation. For some it’s pursuing a G.E.D. and a work experience program through Goodwill Industries and partner organizations nationwide; for some it’s applying a professional skill learned in the workplace, a trade or college or learning a new skill to serve NICUs; and for some it’s becoming an excellent parent and growing as a partner with a significant other.
I credit our NICU nurses for taking Courageous Steps. No matter what direction we choose, thank our NICU nurses for being that change that renewed our hearts.