Life As A NICU Nurse

A wrinkled, “sterile,” hospital scrubs slay 🙂

Shantae, MSN, RN, CLC

So, Nurse Bae (hahahaha!), what are the 6 most interesting things about your specialty?
  1. Well, first, I am still new to the NICU and trying to learn more every day. I have a long way to go! But one of the most interesting things thus far is the resiliency of those little bitty babies.  I saw my first two-pounder (aka a baby weighing two pounds) after I had worked about three months in the NICU.  My preceptor instructed me to “Go ahead, do your normal assessment.”  I replied “I can’t! I…I…How do I touch her? How do I move her? I can’t!”  I was so scared!
  2. Many times we use the baby’s belly button (umbilical cord) for IV access. Sometimes, we even put IVs into their scalps.
  3. We do A LOT of standing; wear compression socks!
  4. Intubated babies, babies on a breathing machine with a tube inserted into their throat, are unable to cry.
  5. For very preterm babies, their isolette (also known as an incubator) is filled with humidified air.  So, when you place your hands inside the isolettes, the air feels damp, kind of like standing in the bathroom with the shower on.
  6. Tasks that we rarely think about, such as eating and breathing at the same time, can be incredibly difficult for the babies and can wipe them out as if they’ve just ran a marathon.  For most babies, we can only touch them and do assessments every three hours as to not stress them unnecessarily.
Scrubs:  Cherokee
What is the number 1 thing you wish you had been told as a nursing student?

PROTECT. YOUR. BACK.  At all costs.  Before NICU, I worked with adults (most of my career).  Sure, in school and during new employee orientation we are briefly taught to use proper ergonomics- the thing they don’t tell you is- on your unit you will be pressured not to.  CNAs (nursing assistants) and even other nurses, will discourage you from using lift equipment, i.e. “Let’s just boost him up real quick, let’s just get him from the chair back to bed.  I don’t have time to get the lift equipment! I have a bed bath to do in the next room!”  So here you are, 140 pounds, and the patient is 300 pounds.  NO MA’AM!

I know nurses, all under the age of thirty, who’ve had chronic pain syndromes, osteoarthritis, bulging disks, and even torn rotator cuffs!  When you find yourself being pressured on your job, or even if you hear yourself saying “The lift equipment is all the way down the hall, it would be faster if I just pulled him up…”  STOP. DON’T DO IT.

Lastly, if you had 8 minutes to speak to the entire world on one issue in healthcare, what would you speak about?

The one thing I would discuss, and the topic I am most passionate about (and all of my friends and family know this, lol) is health disparities experienced by African Americans.  For a startling amount of time, African Americans have had higher death and disease rates than White Americans.  While there are a multitude of reasons for this, many are due to social and economic factors. For example:

Racial health disparities costs the United States countless lives and billions of dollars.

Scrubs:  Jaanuu

              Check Tae out on Instagram @heytaemama & on her website that you’re looking at, right now 🙂



2 Comments Add yours

  1. Kim says:

    Thanks for a really informative post! I’m a travel ICU nurse (all of the adult ICUs) and I’ve been looking into potentially switching into NICU when I’m done!


    1. Tae says:

      You’re welcome! Thank you for reading 🙂


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