NICU stands for neonatal intensive care unit, the babies that come to the NICU vary from the very small and premature to full term babies. What brings them to the NICU; infection, sugar issues, temperature instability, breathing difficulties, chromosome disorders, malformations just to name a few. Babies come with usually more than one problem, and it is a complex balance of stabilization, maintenance and growth that make them thrive to the best of their potential.
In the NICU, a team of specialists work simultaneously to help support the infant and the family. The neonatologist, the specialist physicians, the neonatal nurse practitioner, the NICU nurse, surgery team, respiratory therapist, physical therapist, lactation nurse, occupational therapist, speech therapist, radiology and lab department and the chaplain. It is a very tedious job of 12–14-hour shifts.
Having said that, the NICU RNs are very well versed and rounded in all aspects of infant care to facilitate the best outcome for each infant. The vast knowledge and experience of the NICU nurses means they can assist parents at any time within the NICU or at home. They have seen it all and are quick to point out problems or potential problems and how to avoid them from progressing. All aspects of infant care means everything to do with an infant. They also know what needs to be done to help the infant and facilitate overcoming issues.
At home a NICU nurse can help you prioritize the infant's needs and assist with bottle and breast feeding, feeding techniques and dealing with difficult feeders, reflux babies, positioning, comforting measures, burping, weight gain, time management, clustering of care, sleep/awake schedules, development and correct positioning. The NICU nurse will also focus on the family and the support system. So, in a nutshell, the NICU nurse is, a "Jack of all trades" as they say, focusing on needs and how to accommodate them. By pointing out needs of the infant, the mother can speak to the pediatrician so follow up can be initiated. A NICU nurse will notice things right away. In the NICU, the nurse can take care of 1 and up to 4 babies depending on acuity and typically work 12 hr shifts but it usually closer to 13 hrs. So, time management and being efficient is a part of the NICU life.
If you are struggling with a baby that has reflux, a baby that only wants to turn its head to one side, a baby that won't stop crying unless you hold them, feeding issues such as spitting up, an infant that is struggling to gain weight. Need help with breast feeding, pumping, helping to increase your milk supply and managing your time and your nutrition. If you feel you can't get a break with your new infant, and you are just trying to keep up, let a NICU RN come in support you.