Why should we take time to honor nurses? Aren’t they just doing their job? Quite honestly, I can’t honor them often enough and a week is simply too short of a time to shine the spotlight on the work they do. I want to acknowledge Nurses Week by taking a little time to express my gratitude specifically for the neonatal nurses whom I have been privileged to work alongside in my career. They go well beyond the limits of “their job” in countless ways. I see it every day. In the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), the impact of just one single nurse can last a lifetime.
In this day and age, where there is a week or a day for just about everybody, it can be easy to be cynical and to not pay attention to those who are making a difference. It can be easy to go about our day, blissfully unaware of all the work that is happening around us. We often do not realize that our lives are profoundly impacted by just one person. But that is what a nurse is; a person who changes lives, every day, one patient at a time.
I see nurses who help parents change the diaper of a critically ill baby, just so they can feel like parents. I see nurses who help put a baby who weighs less than a pound into the trembling arms of their father, so the baby can get the brain-changing benefits of skin-to-skin care, and the dad gets to hold their daughter.
I see nurses who sit silently with families in their darkest hour. I see nurses who gently usher a baby from our world into the next, while helping the families get through an experience they never wanted have. I see calm and emotionally present nurses supporting families, providing a “true north” to help them navigate their way through one of the most terrifying times of their lives. I see it every day.
When we talk with families of our NICU graduates and we see the fruits of our labor, once critically ill children growing up, going to school, playing, and having joy, we never talk about the medications we gave. We never talk about what ventilator we used, or what the x-rays showed, or any of the other technology or research that went into saving their lives. We talk about our shared experiences. We talk about our memories of their time in the NICU, some of the bad days, but mostly the good. And we ALWAYS talk about who was their baby’s nurse. Always. Because while the doctors may direct the care, the nurses deliver the care. On the front lines.
Twenty-four hours a day. Three hundred and sixty five days a year. Through epic snowstorms, and road construction. On holidays and weekends. When there are literally babies coming to us from every direction, our nurses are there. And for that, I say “THANK YOU.” You are needed. You are loved. You are important.