Life As A NICU Nurse

A wrinkled, “sterile,” hospital scrubs slay 🙂

Shantae, MSN, RN, CLC

Specialty: Neonatal Intensive Care (NICU) and Clinical Nurse Consultant

The 618 Series is a series of interviews with Registered Nurses designed to give you an inside, uncensored look into real nurse life.

So, Nurse Bae (haha!), 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.

Quiz via The United States Department of Labor
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 🙂



5 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 🙂

  2. This is my favorite blog post because, if given 8 minutes to speak on one issue in nursing, I would definitely talk about healthcare disparities experience by African Americans. I’m currently in nursing school and hoping to become a certified nurse midwife/women’s health NP when it’s all said and done because, one, that’s where my passion lies and two, the maternal mortality and cervical cancer rates in Black/African-American women are way too high in comparison to white women. I spoke about this in class and another student chimed in saying “maternal deaths are rare”, TUH. I currently work on a MedSurg/Tele unit as a PCT/US (this inpatient population ain’t for me either, Tae) and I see patients with sickle cell anemia come in during a crisis and they get called “drug seekers” and receive watered down care because their (non-black) nurses aren’t taking them or their pain seriously. It’s all so maddening. I could literally speak on racial healthcare disparities until I’m blue in the face and I hope to make an impact when I obtain my credentials!

    Thanks, Tae! For all the knowledge you share and the work you do with your platform!

  3. Sabine Z says:

    Reading through your blog, and following you on insta for quiet some time now has made me rethink what kind of nursing I want to do. You’re very inspiring and I always tell my boyfriend remember that one nurse I’ve showed you well she mentioned this! NICU was something I was thinking about a few years ago and you now have reignited that interest. Applying for Nursing school this winter and spring… super nervous.

  4. Kendra S. says:

    This post is my favorite because, if I were given 8 minutes to talk about one issue healthcare, it definitely would be about racial healthcare disparities experienced by Black/African Americans, too. I’m currently a nursing student and I aspire to be a certified nurse midwife/women’s health NP because, one, is that’s where my passion is, and two, maternal mortality and cervical cancer rates among Black/African American Woman are way too high in comparison to white women. I wrote a discussion post about why I want to be nurse and had a fellow student reply “maternal deaths are rare”, AFTER I had already provided an evidence-based article. I work as a PCT/US on a medsurg/tele floor (this inpatient population ain’t for me either, Tae) and I see patients admitted during a sickle cell crisis who are labeled as “drug seekers” and they receive lackluster care from their (non-black) nurses who don’t take the patient or their pain seriously. It’s all so exhausting and maddening, but I’ll go blue in the face talking like I’m Twista when it comes to racial healthcare disparities and inequities.

    Thank you, Tae for all that you knowledge you drop and what you do with your platform!

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