We ask health and wellness professionals the same six questions we always ask. This week, TWO DOULAS talks to Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) nurse Amanda Camacho.
Amanda Camacho graduated from McGill University’s School of Nursing in 2006 and has been working in the field ever since. She has just returned to her position at the Montreal Children’s Hospital following her maternity leave. When she isn’t caring for babies at the NICU, she can be found touring the United States in an RV with her husband, brother-in-law and one-year-old daughter.
How would you describe your job in just one sentence?
A NICU nurse is a healthcare professional who gives 24-hour bedside care to babies with very severe health issues that have begun in the neonatal phase of life.
What made you want to be a nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit?
I had been working in a small community hospital as a labour and delivery nurse and loving it. However, anytime there was a sick newborn, the baby would be transferred a hospital with NICU care. I decided I wanted to see where these babies were going, and applied to work at MUHC’s Children’s Hospital. I’ve been there ever since. I find it an incredibly stimulating and fulfilling job with endless opportunities to learn and grow, which is what keeps me motivated.
How can new parents benefit from your services?
New parents can get a lot out of their relationship with their child’s NICU nurse. They are the ones available and at the patient’s bedside 24 hours a day. Beyond basic patient care (changing, bathing, etc.) in which parents are usually involved, nurses possess many special skills in order to properly care for patients (taking bloods, giving medications, adjusting oxygen levels). Nurses can offer parents a lot of teaching around their baby’s condition and care involved. However, I would say generally it is very clear that parents know their baby the most intimately, and they will be the ones to teach the nurses about their child’s likes and dislikes. So, both the nurse and parent have their own input and it is important to communicate and work as a team to ensure each baby gets the best quality of care.
What happens at your first meeting with a new parent?
When I meet parents for the first time I introduce myself and let them know (on my end) what the general care plan is the day. I try to coordinate with parents what works best for their and their baby’s needs. For example, together we can organize feeds, kangaroo care, baths, medications, etc. I also try to make sure parents feel comfortable in their hospital space. I want to be sure they know where the communication board, breast pump, fridge, water dispenser, and bathrooms are. I also make sure they are familiar with different hospital protocols such a hand washing and visiting policies. That way we can all work together easily.
What’s the biggest misconception people have about your field?
I think the biggest misconception people have about the NICU is that we only care for premature or newborn babies. It is generally true that in order to be admitted to the NICU, babies must be less than one month old. However, since some conditions keep babies in hospital for many weeks or sometimes many months, we actually care for a wide range of ages. So, though we do deal with a lot of tiny newborns and premature babies in incubators, it isn’t unheard of us to also help some learn to walk and eat solids!
What do you love most about working with new parents?
I love helping new parents bond with their babies. The NICU is a scary place to be for any parent. I try my best to make their experience feel just a little more comfortable. These babies and parents are in starting a lifelong relationship with one another. They need to be given opportunities to be able to get to know one another. As such, I try to get parents as involved as possible in their own child’s care. I love setting parents and babies up for kangaroo care, bath times, and story times together. Watching parents’ confidence grow is so rewarding.