I have the best job in the world! I'm so proud to say that I'm a neonatal nurse. I feel like the luckiest nurse in the world, because I am privileged to work with the tiniest little human beings. When I look at their little faces and their teeny- tiny hands and feet, I can't believe we were all once that small. So vulnerable to the world around us and reliant upon "big people" to care for them.
Many people have asked me what my day's like working with our youngest generation, and that's why I'm writing this. I want to share with you what's it's truly like to be a neonatal nurse.
I typically arrive to work at around 7:00am and go directly to report. I work in a small hospital so each of us floats between neonatal intensive care, high dependency or our special care unit. We usually find out these details during report. I gather as much information as a can from the night-nurse that has had my patients and is now passing them to me. Our charge nurse always tries to assigns us the same babies whenever possible, because it makes it easier for us to get report when we already have a good idea what's going on with that particular patient. So, if that's the case, the night-nurse usually just tells me if there have been any changes and what has occurred during the night. It's also good to have the same patients so that the parents are comfortable. Most parents and pretty picky about their newborns and rightly so. They're usually not very fond of multiple nurses caring for their child. Once I have all the information I need, the night-nurse leaves and it's my turn to care for the babies.
It depends on the census of the hospital, how many patients you will be assigned to and the department you're going to be working in is also a factor. If you're in the ICU You're dealing with a lot of lines, (electronic equipment, IV pumps, syringe pumps, monitors...etc) for those of you that are non-nurses.
I always plan the day based on the feeding times, diaper changes and medication administration. It's also very important to consider the time that each babies parents will arrive to spend time with their child, so you can allocate some time to helping them understand their babies needs and answering any questions they may have.
I also check to make sure that all the resuscitation equipment is in order and functioning in case it's needed in an emergency-code situation.
No two days are alike in the neonatal unit and that's just one of the reasons why I love neonatal nursing. It always keeps you on your toes and you're always utilizing all your nursing skills. While my days vary greatly, there are also a lot of consistencies in each day. All my days always involve preparing medications for my little ones, administering medications, blood products, monitoring IV fluids, charting vitals signs and input and output, more charting and documentation of everything that happens on the shift. Cleaning the babies is my favorite thing to do. This is usually done once a shift and it gives me the opportunity to do a head-to-toe assessment on each baby in my care.
Alarms go off fairly regularly in the neonatal units. Our very tiny babies that were premature can forget they need to breath and a gentle reminder like a little tap on their back will usually do the trick. It's a bit scary to see this when you don't know what's going on, but it's nothing to be overly concerned about.
When the parents of a baby come to visit their child, I try to be completely available to them and use this time to teach and answer all their questions. New parents are often petrified, especially when their child is premature. They're afraid they will do something wrong, unintentionally and hurt their child. They need a lot of reassurance. I always try to remember the first time I was caring for and holding babies in this unit. I was so scared that I would hurt their tiny little bodies, holding them too tight (or worse) dropping them. I have been a neonatal nurse for 20 years now and I have never dropped a baby or held one too tight. But remembering my first experience holding them, helps me understand, comfort and assist new, frightened parents.
I can't really imagine doing anything else. Although being a neonatal nurse can certainly be quite challenging at times. I feel like I make a difference in the lives of these tiny babies and I love the way my job gives me the opportunity to teach parents and help them with their new addition. It's an exciting time in their lives and I get to be a part of that. I frequently get cards and pictures of babies I've cared for in the past and it thrills me to see how well they're doing. I was born to be a neonatal nurse and would do this job for free. I honestly can't believe I get paid to do something I love so much. I know they say "do something you love and you'll never work a day in your life". It's definitely true for me.