NICU Staff – A Guide to the Best People on Earth

NICU Staff – A Guide to the Best People on Earth

Holy Shit, NICU staff are amazing.

Whiteboard with cartoon car and oh the places youll go
These cartoon illustrations done by a talented night nurse stayed up for most of the boys stay in the NICU.

I never met a more dedicated, loving, and hard working group of people as NICU staff. I genuinely believe they see all their patients as their children. They work through heartbreak and celebration in the span of a shift and come back everyday.

Fraternal Twin brothers in a bassinet
Later in their stay the staff encouraged us to have our twins together as much as possible.

Security

Be nice to the security staff – they know everyone and insider tricks (like parking, where to eat, and what elevators to avoid at 5pm). Learn the rules (how many visitors you can have, hours, etc), keep your badges and bracelets visible. They keep the unit as safe and serene as possible. They will not hesitate to discretely escort out someone making a problem. And they are literal gate keepers – we could make a list of people who we did not want admitted.

General Staff

General staff are everywhere: custodial services, nursing and medical students, nursing and medical assistants, translators, and even clerical staff. All these people make NICUs work. Be polite. Don’t make their jobs harder.

Tiny little fingernail on my finger
One of the FEW things the NICU nurses would not do: cut fingernails. When they were this tiny, can you blame them? Js first mani was done by mommy. They were so soft they simply tore. LOOK AT HOW TINY IT WAS!!!! 

Social Workers

If you are in the NICU more than a day ask to see the social worker. Ours was the link to hospital resources, Ronald McDonald House, Insurance Company fights, and aftercare services. Ask a million questions. Ask about free services the hospital offers – our NICU had a massage therapist on staff and once a week parents could schedule them or ‘gift’ them to nurses or staff. She also coordinated non-allopathic treatments like music therapy and energy work.

Cartoon Airplane on a whiteboard in a nicu

One day we came in to find this on Ks whiteboard. The boys had had a quiet night and the overnight nurse kept herself busy.

Nurses – I could write an entire post singing the praises of NICU nurses.

You will interact the most with your nurses and they are amazing. We had two general types:

  1. More mature enthusiastic nurses – who had been in the trenches and seen it all – who could take a blood sample without waking a baby, and were full of advice; and
  2. Young enthusiastic nurses – who brought amazing energy to their shifts – the sort who decorated white boards with colorful pictures, made Easter and Mother’s Day cards.

I’m generalizing, of course. We had a few nurses who liked lecturing my husband about holding, diapering, and feeding the babies. One or two who were gruff as hell. But one of the gruff ones insisted on our first family portrait – the first time we held our sons together – two weeks after they born. I am ever grateful for that moment.

 

We could call our sons’ nurses ANY time of the day or night for ANY reason. They went out of their way to ensure we were present for milestones – first feedings, baths, clothes. If something is especially important to you, make sure they know (some families want umbilical cord clips and stumps, first hats, etc). If it is within reason, they will make it happen.

Mom and Preemie having his first bath
Baths couldn’t happen until the boys could regulate their temperature – which is something Preemies struggle with. J’s first bath here!

The lactation consultant – sometimes a nurse

Me and my ridiculously gigantic boobies got lots of help and attention from the nurse lactation consultant. I fed my sons individually and tandem for the first time under her watchful eyes. She gave me equipment, sterile bottles to use for pumping, and tons and tons of advice.

Preemie nursing
Nursing preemies that don’t have a good feeding skills is a challenge that required teamwork and lots of practice. Lactation consultants made this happen. 

Pro tips for Working with NICU nurses

Write down the names of nurses you like, fill out feedback cards for them right away and more than once during your stay. Over 30 different nurses cared for our sons over our 7 week stay. Some we saw over and over, some only once. In some hospitals this sort of feedback can impact pay raises or incentives.

Ask them how they prefer to be addressed. In general the younger nurses encouraged us to use their first name, older nurses we called Mrs. Lastname or Ms. Firstname.

Nurses will turn away no amount of home-cooked food, gift cards, and treats. We even opened a bar tab at a place down the street for them (with a limit, of course *wink*).

Radiology Technician and Sonography Technicians

X-ray and ultrasound are portable in our NICU, the technicians would roll them in for tests. Remember they cannot (or should not) tell you the results of tests. They aren’t supposed to. It IS fair to ask them when the results of test will be read by the doctor. That way you can ask your nurse to get the results as soon as possible.

Therapists – but not ‘that’ kind

Respiratory Therapists, Occupational Therapists, Speech Language Pathologists, nutritionists, and Physical Therapists may participate in your little one’s NICU care. One of our sons spent some time on a vent. The management of the vent was done by a respiratory therapistOccupational Therapy was responsible for managing a foot deformation and for feeding at our NICU (It could be an SLP elsewhere). Most of our twins’ time in the NICU was spent feeding and growing.

Fraternal twin preemies in the nicu with side eye
Babies born before 34 weeks often lack the ability to coordinate suck-swallow-breath which is essential for nursing or bottle feeding. That meant most of their meals for many weeks came through a feeding tube. K practicing his brother side-eye early. You can see in this picture their size difference.

Nurse Practitioners

They answered medical questions beyond the nurses scope. They also relayed questions and concerns to the physicians. Our practitioner advocated for us to the doctors and coordinated it so both my sons went home on Mother’s Day.

Doctors and Specialists

We were invited to attend Morning Rounds for our twins and could ask their doctors questions then. We were friendly with a few of our physicians and they would sometimes stop by at the end of their day. Not all of them had the time or preferred to talk to us during rounds instead. NICU patients often see multiple specialists. Ours made efforts to schedule their visits when we were around. Sometimes that didn’t work, but in those cases the Boys’ doctor would relay the information.

NICU preemie Dabs
Tubes and wires and monitors make handling a NICU baby tricky. The staff will work with you until you are comfortable – or as comfortable as you can be. K’s early Dab attempt.

Volunteers and Chaplains

We did not see most of the volunteers that work with our NICU but we felt their impact daily. Pretty much all the clothes my sons wore while there were provided through a clothing bank. Volunteers made all the knit and crocheted hats my sons wore – the nurses had great fun picking coordinating ones for our twins and the collection of them we took home are precious to me.

After a few days you may get a visit from the hospital Chaplain. Who can provide great solace and help you connect with additional resources for religious ceremonies and religious support.

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