Being A NICU Social Worker Never Stops

I want to start this article with a standing round of applause to the Providence, RI planning committee. Awesome conference and if you missed it, next year we will be in Portland, OR. I have attended several of the NAPSW conferences, in years past, and I always leave them feeling in awe of the planning committee’s hard work and have yet to be disappointed. So, really, let’s hear it for all planning committees past and future. Your dedication to this organization is not overlooked.

As social workers, we tend to wear many hats for our families, and at times can be a little protective too. Well, March of this year I acted as an advocate for a family. I hope I educated the physician a little too. Short story is this: Cute young couple has their first child, a boy. I have to say he was a gorgeous child. Shortly after birth, he shows signs of distress and is grunting and this is pointed out to the RN. The neo was consulted and conversations went on back and forth, until finally the decision was made that baby would be observed for a while in the NCIU. Back and forth, from room to NICU, the parents were ok, but just when they got comfortable; baby was either back in their room or back in the NICU.

Next day comes and more labs are ordered until finally around 5 p.m., the family is told the physician is coming to talk to them. The couple asks, “What about?” And “Oh, he will tell you,” was the response. Room full of family and this sweet couple is hanging on every word, but I could tell they weren’t grasping the news of a full NICU admission. No questions being asked, probably too tired to think about an infection or plan of care, maybe shock, because it really wasn’t being explained well.

Then a family member asked some questions. The physician turned to the nurse and said, “See, this is why I don’t like talking in front of family members. They all act like they know what is being discussed.” My switch was flipped at this point and the father could tell. Quietly, he leaned over and said these words, “That is my mother-inlaw and she works in a Level III NICU. She knows what you are talking about, and that’s why we wanted her here.” Oops. The story ends with Dr. Whackadoodle apologizing after we discussed the concept of family-centered care. That gorgeous little boy is my first grandchild, and yes, I am very protective of my family and friends.

Now that I have your attention, let’s talk Social Action! Stimulating topic I know and it’s only going to get better. Several names were shared of those members interested in being a part of this committee, so if you did not receive an email from me in May, let me know. If you did receive an email and are not interested, let me know. If you received an email and are interested, please email me back. I am hopeful that Social Action will be visible on our web page…thank you Tiffany, and hopefully on Facebook, at some point. Social Action is an important piece of this organization and what we can address for our families. We need a solid foundation that is willing to look at bills to support, write articles that are thought-provoking, consider actions on other related issues in our field, urge our Representatives to give support to those issues we feel strongly about, nurture partnerships and see where we, as a group, can lend support. Who wants to go to Washington, D.C? Not me, because large groups intimidate me and send me in an anxiety filled panic attack, but if someone wanted to go alone, or together, I am all for a trip. Maybe our presence on Capitol Hill would stir some memories of a family member who had a premature baby, or a co-worker who had a child needing services but were unable to receive such care, due to funding cuts. I think, bottom line, we are a strong organization and together, we have good ideas. We have good committees and leaders, but they can’t do great things without help. So, I am asking, short of begging on my knees, for all of us to think of something that we as an organization can do better to make change. Once we have some ideas, the Social Action committee members can decide our top three issues and bring those to everyone. Then we begin, each of us, to contact Congress members, U.S. Representatives, and Senators. So, be on notice, Social Action is ramping things up and we want you to be a part of this committee.

Lastly, pray for our country. This last recent act of violence scares me for my grandson’s future, as well as all our families’ futures. The elections are coming soon and changes are coming and we have to be prepared.

Thank you. Beth Paul

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