The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit is undoubtedly one of the most difficult areas in any hospital—one that’s filled with both heartbreaks and triumphs. I, myself, was once a patient in the NICU of a hospital in Provo, UT when my mother gave birth to me after just 26 weeks of her pregnancy. Believe it or not, my dad's wedding band went all the way up to my shoulder and I weighed 1lb and 7oz!
Needless to say, my own story ends with heartwarming success as my parents were able to finally bring me home after 3 months of being in the NICU in the hospital. Thanks to modern medicine, premature babies and those born full-term with complications are now looking at higher chances of getting healthier, but not without getting immediate and specialized care from the NICU medical team.
I wish, with this blog post, to give back and acknowledge those unsung heroes of the NICU—the neonatal nurses. Their stories below ought to inspire and tug at your little hearts!
Fighting for the Tiniest Patients
For NICU nurses, every shift is a roller coaster ride that you wouldn’t expect. After all, a neonatal nurse’s fast-paced job requires more than just giving medications and doing rounds, and for the youngest patients there is. They spend most of their time at the baby’s bed side, more so than any other member of the medical team assigned to each patient. And from the moment that the babies are born, they are required to handle them with utmost care and sometimes even execute life-saving interventions.
A neonatal nurse with 2 years of experience in a hospital in Houston shares that the battle starts once the babies are born and that she would actually prefer to see the baby in critical condition—as long as the baby is alive.
“I’ve been handling preemies every day and I still couldn’t believe it when the doctor hands me a fragile little baby as small as the palm of my hand,” Maggie shared.
One of their most difficult tasks is starting IV lines and drawing blood from babies’ tiny veins, usually from the feet where veins are easier to spot. This skill obviously requires a lot of patience and experience! Neonatal nurses are also required to talk to the families and educate them on their babies’ conditions, as well as proper care for when the babies are—God-willing!—finally discharged.
A NICU nurse named Milly admitted she almost didn’t make the cut for the level three and four newborn nursery, where more serious conditions like infections and serious “adult-level” health issues like cardiac and respiratory problems are treated.
“Nurses have to be prepared to care babies with a wide variety of serious conditions—within the same hour,” she revealed.
The battles definitely differ and these nurses end up physically and emotionally tired all the same. But they are forced to go on, because little lives also depended on them.
They Are Humans, Too
After monitoring and looking after these babies for weeks or even months depending on their unique conditions and needs, these nurses can’t help but feel for these struggling babies and their helpless families. It’s no wonder that they end up caring for these babies like their own. But instead of allowing themselves get absorbed by their emotions, they focus on their jobs in order to keep these babies alive. You have to admit, that’s not an easy feat!
“You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve heard their families say that they wish they could trade places with the baby. I couldn’t help but think the same for myself,” a male neonatal nurse in Perth named Rodel admitted.
It’s not an unusual thought. After all, how can anyone not feel sad about seeing pint-sized infants who may unfortunately have underdeveloped lungs, half a brain, or even an exposed spine? The earlier they’re born, the more critical these babies’ conditions can be and the more pressuring it is for the healthcare team.
Despite all the hard work and experience, one bothersome fact remains: Not all babies survive. The nurses can’t help but feel heartbroken along with the families who have been with them on their journey in the NICU, but their lives and jobs must go on. But they continue for those little triumphs and are fueled further by the joys of seeing babies leave the NICU for the comforts of their own home.
The Payback is Priceless
On average, a NICU nurse in the United States gets paid between $45,000 to almost $100,000 a year. It’s arguably worth it, but considering all the life-saving they do all year, they definitely deserve a whole lot more! Don’t you agree?
The pay is really just part of the reason why they do what they do. As Elise from a public hospital in California puts it, “Being a nurse in general is a vocation, not just a profession. It’s holistic. It’s giving yourself physically and emotionally to your patients.”
Like NICU nurses around the world, I would very much love to become a part of the wonderful journey that NICU babies go through! This is why I’ve been working harder every year to promote my online baby boutique, Kinder Keepsakes. With unending support for our baby-loved items like the Luvi animal blanket and the graduation cap-and-gown from our NICU Grad Project, you are all helping me share the joy with the babies and families who “graduate” from the NICU.
Be your own hero for NICU babies near your area. It’s easy! Simply drop us a line, share your thoughts or share your own stories as a preemie or NICU nurse. Together, let’s spread awareness about premature birth and give the acknowledgement that they deserve
You can also register and be part of our mailing list to receive more information about our advocacy. By doing so, you even get a 10% off gift code on your first purchase of any of our Kinder Keepsakes items—and become part of our charity fund for NICU babies all around in the country.
And for all our supporters and NICU nurse respondents, thank you for sharing your stories! We applaud you for your hard work and dedication. Know that you have our full support!