NICU nurses’ profound impact on communities

Published: May. 21, 2023 at 11:55 PM CDT
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MIRAMAR BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Working in the medical field is often demanding. However, being a nurse in a neonatal intensive care unit, especially if it’s only one in the area, can come with its own set of challenges.

The Ascension Sacred Heart Emerald Coast Family Birth Place is the only NICU in the Okaloosa and Walton County area. NICU nurses say they’re preparing to help as many families as possible as the panhandle population continues to grow.

These nurses care for ill and premature babies who need around-the-clock assistance. They say they’re responsible for checking babies’ vital signs, breathing habits, feeding schedules, and more. NewsChannel 7 was told the strong bond they create with the babies and their families is truly rewarding.

“We are there with them as they’re nervous and concerned if their baby’s going to be healthy,” RN Supervisor of the NICU Brandy Kirby said. “What’s this going to look like long-term for them? So, really, the most rewarding and probably important thing the nursing staff and the physicians in a Level II NICU do is support the Mom and Dad.”

Other doctors say they love seeing parents’ reactions to hearing when their baby can go home. Neonatologists say premature babies can stay at a hospital anywhere from a couple of days to even months depending on the severity.

“You know, when you look at Mom and Dad and tell them their baby’s ready to go home, and it’s coming, and it’s the day,” Dr. Ayman Khmour said. “The joy you see on their faces; it’s priceless. You cannot put a price tag on that. You know, it happens almost every day, but it’s different with every family. The way they interact with it, the way they react to it is precious. You cannot, you cannot see that anywhere else.”

Hospital representatives said the unit has helped save more than 600 babies since NICU opened in 2020.