Friday, October 14, 2011

Feeling At Home In The NICU

I love federal holidays
This has been the best week yet of the Naval Medical Center Portsmouth Nurse Residency Program. For starters, Monday, Columbus Day, was a federal holiday. Can't argue with a three day weekend. Secondly, Tuesday was a conference on patient care and safety. It was an amazing conference. The topic sounds painfully boring, but the speakers were truly engaging. There were three speakers total, and each one was fascinating. We heard stories of a mother who's son died in the hospital because of extremely preventable causes and a lack of communication between the nurses and doctors caring for him. We heard from a retired Navy Commander who had a stellar career until a series of mistakes that causes him to collide a fast-attack submarine into a ship of Japanese students and sailors killing nine people. The third speaker was the most passionate person I've ever heard speak about patient care and was an Air Force Pilot. The opportunities for education that we get through this hospital are unbeatable.

The week only got better as I went to the NICU on Wednesday for the first time. I feel so much more at home taking care of babies than I do adults. Despite not having kids (yet), I feel like I instinctively know what to do and what to look for with them. It might sounds strange, but I think adults are so hard to read. Adults get embarrassed when they are sick or hurting. They can talk and communicate openly with you, but they don't because they truly want to believe that nothing is wrong with them. Children don't do that. If they hurt, they tell you. If they feel sick, they let you know. Even the preemie babies reflexively extend an arm and put out a stiff hand when they are stressed from being messed with.

I think one of my favorite parts of working with newborns is the parent teaching - especially to first time parents. Again, we don't have kids, but I feel like I can read when parents are hesitant about something or wondering if the question in their head is too stupid to be asked out loud. I don't know nearly enough at this point in the game, but I feel like I make people comfortable, and I think I could really use that for good in teaching new parents what they need to know to get started. I've been trying really hard to take in all I can about the parent teaching. Today, I learned that breast milk usually starts between three and five days after birth but some mothers can start within the first day. I also learned that tucking a finger under the newborn's chin helps to stimulate them to suck if they aren't good feeders. I even got a swaddling compliment from my preceptor. I know it's a minor thing, but it makes all the difference in the world when they need to be calmed down.

I tied the bow
My preceptors in the NICU have been wonderful and encouraging. One of my preceptors saves the baby's first bottle for the parents if the parents aren't there for the first feeding. To me, it's little things like that which make the parents trust you as a nurse in a stressful place like the NICU. I would imagine that being the first time parents of a healthy child is scary enough. But a lot of these parents are first timers with a sick, premature newborn. Having a nurse do little things like that really builds rapport with the parents.

I haven't even been to work on the pediatric unit yet, but I'm really hoping to be able to cross-train in the NICU after I get settled in. I think pediatrics will be a great foundation to build on to get to the NICU. I'm excited about the next few days in the NICU.


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