LANSING, MI — Kristen was born at 32 weeks gestation, about 4 to 5 weeks early.
“Back then, a 32-week baby was pretty sick,” Sandy said. “But things have changed. Today, we’re glad when a baby is born at 32 weeks instead of earlier.”
Kristen considered a number of possible careers in health care but chose nursing because of the close contact with patients.
“I love working with babies the most,” she said. “I received training at Hurley Medical Center’s neonatal intensive care unit. But when it came time to leave school and get a job, I decided there was only one place to go – Sparrow.”
Kristen is looking forward to practicing primary nursing, which allows a nurse to care for the same patient every shift. Primary nursing helps nurses build a relationship with the patients and the family.
“Primary nursing helps the parents be much more comfortable and relaxed,” Jo Ellen said. “It’s helpful in RNICU because the babies often have a longer length of stay than patients on other units.”
The relationship with patients and families is one of the few things that hasn’t changed much over the years, according to Sandy.
“The patient-nurse connection is the same, but the atmosphere is much friendlier with more lighting and more space, and the technology is much more advanced,” she said.
In the past, babies were admitted to a separate room in the RNICU. Now they are admitted directly into a bed space in the unit. Today, babies are feeding earlier, and many babies receive NPCPAP (Nasal Prong Continuous Positive Air Pressure) therapy rather than being intubated. Most go home within two weeks of their original due date.
Sandy and Jo Ellen have been a part of the changes in the RNICU. Sandy started at Sparrow in 1972 and Jo Ellen in 1973. At the time Kristen was hired, neither Sandy nor Jo Ellen knew that she had been a patient in the unit.
“I was flabbergasted when I saw the photos,” Sandy said. “Sometimes you just don’t realize how you touch lives in this job.”
This story originally appeared in 2004 in Sparrow Hospital’s internal magazine. Everyone still works at Sparrow.