Nurses who work in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) have a unique and demanding responsibility. Caring for the tiniest, most vulnerable patients new to life requires a genuine heart, individual attention, and authentic nurturing.
A NICU Podcast interview sheds light on the day-to-day challenges NICU nurses face. In addition to providing round the clock service to life-clinging babies, NICU nurses are also the support to and for parents, who, in their own way, are emotionally fragile and sensitive. To these parents, the critical state of their child calls for heightened attention and empathy. The nurses’ position is both guardian and savior, and this can take a toll on nurses who themselves are only human.
On top of normal stresses that come with the job is a growing demand to implement sophisticated technology. On the one hand, technology is bettering our lives every day, making it easier to complete tasks faster and more smoothly. However, research shows this increase in digitization is taking a toll on medical staff. Nurses are now required to maintain reports and data in ways their jobs did not involve before. This learning curve calls for specialized training, which is yet another level of duties for nurses to cover.
As essential as the NICU nurse’s position is in the livelihood of their most precious patients, many times, their efforts and care go unnoticed. Physicians‘ status gets much attention, but the backbone of care and service falls on the nurse staff.
Research among NICU nurses found burnout rates among nurses in NICU are much higher than physicians. In fact, burnout was prevalent for non-physician, day-time, and veteran nurses of more than five years.
The effects of burnout are significant. Emotional suffering, physical exhaustion, depression, weight gain or loss, and reduction in job performance are just a few. Burnout affects work-life balance, socialization, relationships, and one’s perspective on life.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), burnout is now recognized as a chronic health condition. Unfortunately, many NICU nurses are falling victim to this condition as a result of their working environment.
NICU staff carry the burden of high standards, critically positioned babies, and anxious parents. On top of all this, an enthusiastic spirit that wants to be available, do their best at providing care, and occasional loss of an infant makes for extremely stressful conditions. Burnout is not a myth, but a reality, and one that needs immediate attention — sooner than later.