I’ll say it: Nurses are among the best people on the planet. Anyone who has spent time around a nurse knows this to be true.
I may be a bit biased: My mom is a nurse and I have received truly outstanding care at the hands of nurses. In fact, I can’t look at my eight-year-old twin boys without seeing an entire army of health professionals standing invisibly behind them. The ones who stand out the most are the nurses.
It was the nurses in the fertility clinic that answered my questions, calmed my fears and guided me along the long, stressful and extraordinarily emotional path of fertility treatment, including rounds of intrauterine insemination (IUIs) and two rounds of in vitro fertilization (IVF) before finally becoming pregnant.
It was the nurses in the antepartum unit, where I stayed for three weeks after I went into preterm labor at 26 weeks, who took exceptional care of me. They watched me like a hawk for signs of labor, helped keep me company, shared their stories of preterm labor and the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and helped prepare for what was inevitably going to be the next step: the NICU.
My doctors, nurses and care team were able to keep me out of labor for three very important weeks, where my babies were given every advantage to help their lungs, heart, brains and bodies develop as quickly as possible. But finally, at 29 weeks, I went into labor that couldn’t be stopped.
The next 11 weeks spent in the NICU were terrible. There’s no other way to describe it: Seeing the babies that you were supposed to be protecting and growing out in the world way too early is heartbreaking.
But again, it was the nurses who proved to be my babies’ and my guardian angels. They were the ones by the bedside, monitoring every breath, every heartbeat, every ounce of fluid consumed, every wet and dirty diaper. You can start to feel powerless watching someone else provide the care for your baby when you cannot. But those nurses – those amazing individuals – empowered me every step of the way.
They welcomed me into the NICU with open, comforting and understanding arms. They explained every foreign-sounding medical term and walked me through what we could expect at every stage of our extended stay in the NICU. They advocated for my babies during rounds, sharing their insight and opinions with the doctors. They were the ones who knew my babies best.
And as they dove into caring for my little ones, they also found the time to support me. I will never forget the day, toward the end of our stay, where it felt like we were constantly taking one step forward and three steps back. It seemed like the end would never be in sight.
Our primary nurse, Karen – who knew me, our babies and our family just about better than anyone – listened closely, carefully and was fully understanding. Then, unknown to me, she walked directly over to the attending neonatologist and told him he needed to talk to me.
The doctor made his way very casually over to my boys’ bedside under the pretense of checking on them, but he was there because of Karen. She saw I was struggling and needed to talk to the doctor – something I didn’t even realize myself. She was my advocate.
There are a thousand stories like this that we accumulated during our 14-week stay at University of Cincinnati Health (UC Health). There was the nurse who always made time to connect with me when I was on bedrest; the nurse who shared her experience of being on bedrest and the NICU; and the amazing nurses and staff that took care of my babies when I couldn’t.
To all those nurses – and all the others who care for much more than their patients’ physical health – I say thank you. Two simple words that will never quite capture the gratitude your patients’ feel and the impact you have made on lives.
How do you celebrate nurses week?