Take a look inside the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit with a Horizon RN

Sarah is a registered nurse (RN) in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NNICU) at Horizon’s Saint John Regional Hospital (SJRH). She’s been an RN for 10 years, spending the last four with the hospital’s tiniest and most vulnerable patients.

We asked Sarah some questions about the NNICU to help patients and families better understand the incredible work being done in this specialized unit.

First, let’s get to know Sarah!

Why did you choose a career in nursing?

I always wanted to help people. When I was a child, I would take care of my dolls pretending they were sick, and I would even hook them up to skipping ropes for IVs. I went from taking care of dolls to now taking care of real babies!

I wanted to work with babies but started my nursing career in in the coronary care unit after falling in love with cardiology on a clinical rotation in university.

How would you describe your role in the NNICU?

Most people don’t fully understand what happens in the NNICU. There is a common misconception that most of our job is feeding and holding babies. That’s the fun part but not  accurate of neonatal nursing. We do so much more!

We resuscitate babies, support parents/guardians and take care of sick babies of all sizes, not just premature babies. We work with an incredibly skilled team of nurses, respiratory therapists, physicians and other health care professionals.

The team is extremely specialized. We help babies’ transition into the world when they are having trouble doing so. We create an environment that mimics a womb when they arrive too early. We attend high risk deliveries and go anywhere in the hospital if a baby needs help. Our focus and specialty are babies, we are a baby team!

What do you love about your role in the NNICU?

I love critical care and love taking care of babies who need the most support (Level 3 babies). Not all hospitals have a Level 3 Neonatal ICU and we are so lucky to have one in Saint John.

I love developmental care. We are continuously learning what babies need at certain gestations and how we can help them grow and thrive. We know how to protect their brains by controlling their environment, how to position them so they can develop their muscles and what physical contact is helpful (like kangaroo care and hand hugging). These are just a few examples of being developmentally mindful.

A huge component of why I love my job has to do with my team. We all share the same goal of providing the best care for our patients and their families.

What do you want families to know about the NNICU?

The NNICU can be a terrifying place for parents/guardians, it’s a whole different world.

 Our priority is to care for the baby, but we are there for parents/guardians too. Supporting them through this scary time is part of our job. We balance critical care with a lot of love.

Some babies are with us for months, some for weeks and others just a few days. No matter the length of time we are always mindful and empathetic about the experience the family has.

Coming to the NNICU is never part of your birth plan. To make it less scary we do things like milestone cards  for things like “breathing on my own,” “my first bath,” or “my feeding tube is gone.” We write the dates and print pictures to go along with them. The babies won’t remember the room decorations, but the parents do.

What advice to you have for parents/guardians?

Having a baby is not always as straightforward as people expect. Things can go wrong quickly and not every pregnancy/delivery is easy or goes as “planned.”

Any journey to parenthood is amazing and it’s a transitional period for everyone involved.

We want parents/guardians to pay attention to their mental health and we encourage them to reach out if they need help. We understand how hard being a new parent/guardian is and we are here to support you.

Showing parents/guardians how to care for their baby is important, but so is letting them simply bond and love their baby.

If you are a new parent/guardian it’s OK to be scared and it’s OK to not be OK especially with a NNICU admission. We see you and we are here to support you. 

Interested in a health care career with Horizon?

Visit our career page for more information.