Nurses who have chosen to enhance their professional knowledge through certification deserve recognition each year, and this year March 19th is that day - National Certified Nurses Day.
Nurses are true heroes in our society, and we would like to recognize the work these men and women have put in to become certified professionals in the health care industry.
We had the pleasure to catch up and speak to one registered nurse, Takela Williams of Albany, Georgia. Since 2004, she has been working in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital.
Sadly, in the days following the initial outbreak, the Covid-19 virus has had devastating effects on many people with other medical conditions, but we rarely talk about NICU babies, including those who were born during the pandemic.
Williams shares her work experience in the NICU from the past year.
This interview with Takela Williams has been edited and condensed.
ASJ: It is our pleasure to highlight your experience today. Not only are you on the front lines, but you are also the lifeline for NICU babies. How did you end up in your current field?
TW: Thank you for this opportunity to share my story. While in nursing school, I started working at Phoebe as a nursing tech, and now I’ve been at Phoebe as an RN for 14 years. My nursing career started with me working on the postpartum unit, the mother-baby floor. I’ve always had a passion for working with women and children and especially wanted to work with the critical infants. Because it is a specialized facility where not a lot of jobs open up, the NICU was hard to get into. When an opportunity became available, however, I applied and have now been working there for 12 years.
ASJ: What obstacles have you faced working in the NICU during the pandemic?
TW: Because our babies do not have a voice, we as NICU nurses, together with their families, must be their voice. Not only do we care for the infants, but we assist/teach/educate families to care for their babies.
There have been some changes in the way we care for our infants due to the pandemic. One of the changes involves visitation, which is now limited to only two designated people per infant. This can include mom and one other person (usually the secondary caregiver). Masks are worn around the clock by staff as well as visiting family members.
Covid-19 positive moms cannot visit their child until they are symptom-free for ten days with two consecutive negative Covid test results. Until the mom is reunited with her child, her child(ren) is placed in isolation, where only one nurse using proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) cares for the child.
ASJ: That seems like a lot to take in all at once—what keeps you motivated?
TW: I have been blessed to have a profession that fits my personality. I don’t really need much motivation because it comes natural to me to be caring, genuine, competent, and to love working under stress; these are the attributes needed in an NICU nurse. My love and passion for my NICU babies and families is what keeps me going.
ASJ: Can you please speak more on the health disparities you often see and, in your opinion, how to eradicate them?
TW: The health disparities we see in the NICU include higher pre-term labor and infant mortality rates, plus high rates of pregnancy and pre-term labor for teen mothers among BIPOC. Breastfeeding is less likely in younger mothers. Some of the health care facilities used by BIPOC are understaffed and overcrowded. There has also been an increase in the rate of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) infants among people of color. (These are infants exposed to substance abuse.) Patient advocacy, research aimed at providing competent care, and education are some of the ways we can alleviate some of the health disparities we see.
ASJ: How has the field of nursing changed over time?
TW: Changes I’ve seen over the past decade in nursing are computerized documentation, continuing education, ever-more advanced equipment, more family-centered care, continuing care after a patient is discharged from the hospital (such as home health care), and clinic follow-up visits.
ASJ: What is your greatest joy/accomplishment as a nurse?
TW: As an NICU nurse, I work with premature babies as young as 22 weeks and infants with physical defects, infections, or other illnesses. I get to see the sickest and most critical babies, sometimes weighing less than a pound when they are born grow stronger and progress over the weeks and months—they are “little miracles.” Being an NICU nurse can be challenging, but comforting parents and helping them during this difficult time, whether the outcome is good or not so good, is so rewarding to me. Saving babies’ lives is my greatest joy.
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