A Veteran's Story

By Shauna Carette

Tell us your story.

My name is Shauna. I'm a Charge Nurse in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). I'm also a veteran. No, I've never served in the military, or anything remotely like that, but I feel like I'm a veteran all the same.

For nearly 29 years I've worked in the trenches of bedside nursing. The past 20 years of my career have been spent here at Children's. I'm one of the troops that provide care to countless little patients-24 hours a day, seven days a week, weekends, and holidays.

At the time I started working here I figured I would stay for a couple of years and when I needed a new challenge I would move on. Well, I'm still here, because our NICU is a place where challenging and amazing events happen every single day.

As a referral center for our region's sickest and most complicated patients, we provide the very highest level of neonatal care. It seems to me, over the years, the severity of illness and acuity has continued to increase. In order to meet the needs of these patients our nursing staff has had to flex and adapt to a seemingly endless stream of new information and technological advances. Each day, literally, there is something new to learn.

Anyone who has ever visited an ICU, or seen one on TV, knows that we deal with innumerable pieces of equipment. And they change constantly. We learn to operate new-and-improved pumps, ventilators, isolettes, warmers, scales, and lab gizmos. We master new tubings, syringes, medications, monitors, sensors, and computers. And beyond the equipment, there are updated guidelines of care, continuing education obligations, research projects, quality improvement standards, shared governance responsibilities, and state and federal requirements to add to our "to do" list. It's our job to learn and know this to keep our babies safe. Just being able to shake down a thermometer or take a blood pressure doesn't hack it anymore. Nancy Nurse, move over.

What does Children's mean to you, your child and your family?

Continuing to make contributions to the lives of the infants in our unit takes true commitment and courage. And I believe, with all my heart, that the skill and knowledge of a good nurse can make an unbelievable difference to the patient. The value that a nurse advocate adds to the patient experience is immeasurable.

We are in a unique situation to know our patients so intimately. We have the opportunity to discover their individual characteristics, their strengths, their vulnerabilities. There are special mysteries within each and every tiny person we care for, and we are often awed by their stamina and resilience. We work in a place where surprises come in very small packages, and there are days when I am not sure if I am witnessing magic, or miracle.

Throughout my years at Children's there have been thousands of babies in our care. Thinking back, we often reminisce about the impact patients and families have had on us. We remember some for the things they taught us. We remember some for their tenacity and strength of spirit. We remember others because they left us sooner than we had hoped. And we remember all of the babies in the way that they are unique, special, and precious. One way or another, they have all left tiny handprints on our hearts.

Yes, I am a veteran. When I enlisted in this profession, way back when, little did I know the effect it would have on my entire life. There are times when my fortitude is tested and I'm not sure how long I can hold up. The hours are long and we have powerful adversaries. But my nurse comrades give me strength. Some of them are my very best friends, and I know we can lean on each other when the going gets rough. We band together to fight some of the most important struggles of life, and we know that there are many counting on us. We won't surrender, and we won't desert, because we have an awesome responsibility. And it is a true privilege to serve.