During a baby's final moments, a NICU nurse steps in
A stay in the NICU can bring the highest of high moments and some of the lowest of lows for families.
Stephanie Amundson, BSN, RN, a staff nurse in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital, cares for families during their most vulnerable moments. And she views it as a sacred trust.
Recently, she had a patient who was born with a congenital malformation that was incompatible with life. After making the decision to withdraw life support, the parents were too upset to be present when the medical interventions were removed.
“I assured them that I would wrap him in his keepsake blanket and be with him until the very end,” Amundson, BSN, RN, says.
After the parents said their goodbyes, Amundson asked the care team to help get the baby into her arms.
“Sitting in that recliner holding my patient wrapped in his blanket, I felt privileged to be able to provide a soothing, comforting touch,” she says. “I feel that every baby should feel a loving embrace in their last moments.”
This act of compassion is what led a colleague to nominate Amundson for a DAISY Award, moved by her actions in the child’s final moments.
Developing a self-care routine
Such cases can be difficult to process for anyone. To help cope, Amundson has developed a routine of self-care. It ranges from reflection and meditation on her way home from a shift to getting lost in a suspenseful novel or walking with her dogs in the park.
“Our role in health care can take a lot out of you both mentally and emotionally,” she says. “Finding that work life balance to take care of our own emotional needs can be tricky, but it’s so important.”
“Being a nurse in the NICU is both challenging and incredibly rewarding,” she continues. “Every day our entire team puts their heart and soul into caring for these patients.”
Born to be an NICU nurse
Amundson started her career as a neonatal nurse in 2007 with a simple goal: to take care of the tiniest and most critical patients.
“Working in the NICU is unlike anywhere else,” Amundson says. “Our commitment to excellence is clearly shown in our patient outcomes. We’re committed to ever-changing and developing standards of care, evidence-based practices, and research studies to provide the most effective and up-to-date neonatal care.”
It’s clear Amundson has a passion for what she does. But the love for her job also extends to those she works with.
“I most enjoy the feeling of camaraderie with my co-workers,” she says. “Our dedicated NICU nurses, respiratory therapists, nurse practitioners, and doctors all work collaboratively for our tiny patients.”
She says she couldn’t imagine doing anything else—or doing it anywhere else.
“I knew from the minute I was given a tour of our NICU that I wanted to work here,” she says. “I wanted to care for our littlest Hawkeyes!”