NICU or Neonatal intensive care unit is a highly specialized department for treating newborns, premature born babies, or babies with special diseases or illness processes.
Working every day in NICU is challenging due to several factors.
Different levels of NICUs deal with specific challenges.
The First Level is focused on providing basic care to healthy newborns.
Nurses working in NICUs Level I stabilize babies born near term and transfer them to a higher level of care if it is necessary.
The Second Level NICU is focused on babies who need support for feeding and that are unable to breathe on their own.
Level III includes babies who need mechanical ventilation and different surgeries.
The Fourth level provides care to the babies born at the lowest ages of viability.
The treatment includes mechanical ventilation, open-heart surgery, and other complex procedures.
The greatest challenge for nurses and other healthcare workers, especially those in higher-level NICUs is taking care of babies who are struggling to survive.
Despite having cutting-edge technology and best experts on the field, some babies don’t survive.
Healthcare workers in NICUs develop relationships with babies and their parents, and the loss of a baby can be devastating for both family and healthcare workers.
The grief and loss a nurse may feel can be overwhelming, but nurses need to provide comfort to families and find a coping mechanism that will help them to remain calm and continue their work in such stressful situations.
Caring for critically ill patients can be emotionally draining.
Often, caregivers feel stressed and can experience burnouts.
NICU nurses may feel anxious, irritable, or depressed outside their work as well.
Nurses must be able to identify stress and find healthy outlets which will help them to provide the best possible care for all patients, despite a stressful environment.
Alarm fatigue is another challenge.
Healthcare workers often work extended shifts and are used to different alarms sounding to guided interventions.
While alarms are there to keep patients safe, some nurses experience alarm fatigue.
Over time, some healthcare workers get desensitized to sounding alarms, which can lead to the alarm being missed, or ignored.
The repetitive alarms can loos their urgency meaning, especially for caregivers who hear them all the time.
But, many facilities have implemented different strategies to help health care workers reduce alarm fatigue.
Neonatal nurse practitioners often work long hours.
In many facilities, the neonatal NPs shifts are 12 hours, and sometimes there is even a 24-shift when they need to be on-call.
However, there are sleep rooms in all facilities.
Despite all challenges, a job in NICUs is very rewarding.
Connecting with infants and family and helping in positive outcomes in the unique feeling only healthcare workers are familiar with, especially those in NICUs.
Nurses who are present when babies get better and can go home with their parents have the possible reward ever.