One question I’ve received when people find out that I work in a NICU is “Doesn’t it get depressing, with all those sick babies?”
My reply is always “Sometimes it does, but you learn to look for the sunshine behind the clouds.” (Okay, so that answer is a bit more poetic than what I actually say, but you get the idea). And now settle in, boys and girls, for here is an example of “sunshine behind the clouds”…
Faith and Joy (you know the drill… not their real names) are twin girls who were born prematurely – hence their stay in the NICU. I had the pleasure of working with these special girls starting from the day after they were born (less than 24 hours old, as a matter of fact). Their parents were understandably anxious, and we all did our best to reassure them.
When I first met this family I was still in my residency, and my preceptor and I got to know them very well, since we kept getting assigned to care for Faith and Joy on a regular basis. Patient assignments can change daily in the NICU, so the opportunity to care for the same kiddos multiple times is a treat! After I was on my own I continued to care for Faith and Joy, which was great because having cared for them before made me feel more confident.
Since assignments change so often I was surprised when I kept getting these same two girls. The charge nurse later explained that I had been assigned to their care team. What is a care team, you ask? Well, a care team is a group of providers (usually nurses) who, having worked with the baby already, are selected by the parents to care for their child throughout their NICU stay. Due to staffing and other factors a care team nurse may not always get the specific baby every day, but the staffing gurus do try to keep care teams intact as much as possible.
I was surprised to learn that I was on a care team, so new to the NICU and so fresh off my residency; especially for this particular family, since the parents were very nervous and selective about the people who cared for their daughters. I felt very honored that these parents trusted me with their girls.
I so enjoyed watching Faith and Joy grow over the course of their NICU stay. On days where I had a different assignment I would still swing by their room and visit the girls and their parents. These babies started out so tiny and with a fair amount of tubes and wires connected to various machines, but over time the tubes and wires began to get less and less, while their weight steadily increased. They got bigger, started wearing clothes, and after a while you could see their personalities begin to shine. Faith was the spunky spitfire, quite sassy and with a lot of attitude. Joy, on the other hand, was more reserved and quiet, so sweet and charming, but letting her sister Faith take the spotlight most of the time.
One day, many weeks after I had cared for them, I passed by the family waiting room and saw Mom sitting on the couch reading a magazine – not all that unusual, I admit, but I stopped because I noticed an infant car seat on the floor next to her. I poked my head in and said hi, then pointed wordlessly to the car seat, eyebrows raised in question.
Mom was beaming. “Yeah, Faith got discharged yesterday!”
She let me come over and see Faith, bigger than I remembered, sleeping very soundly wrapped in her blankets. Mom then told me that they were just waiting for sister Joy to get discharged in the very near future. Oh, the joy on that mom’s face! Seeing her change from nervous and worried to confident and happy was
A few days later I learned that Joy, too, had been discharged just before I got there. While I was thrilled for the family, I was a little disappointed that I missed saying goodbye. But there’s still hope of seeing them again – a lot of families will come in with their NICU graduates to say hi. I just hope that they come to visit while I’m there!
These happy outcomes – this is why I love my job 🙂