At the time, Jennifer Pearce, RN, had spent more than five years in the NICU at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital caring for the tiny patients fighting for their lives, and encouraging parents dealing with an unthinkable struggle. Like every other parent in the unit, she never expected that one day she would spend time in the NICU caring for her own child—an experience that has helped her relate to parents and provide better care to her patients.
1. When and how did you decide to become a NICU nurse?
While I was in the nursing program I knew I always wanted to work in pediatrics. I didn’t even know the NICU world existed until I completed three weeks of clinicals in the NICU. After five days a week for three weeks, I was in love with the NICU.
2. How long haveyou been working at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital?
I have been at UF Health for 12 and a half years, all in the NICU.
3. What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
Seeing the light in a parent’s eyes when I have helped them. It may be getting them to hold their baby for the first time, helping a new mother to breast feed her baby, or just helping them understand the enormous amounts of information we pass to them about the care of their baby. I also love having NICU graduates come back and visit. Seeing what miracles we can accomplish with the NICU team and parents is an amazing reward.
4. How has your experience as a NICU mom helped shape the kind of NICU nurse you have become?
I understand exactly what it is like to be at the bedside as a mom. I remember all of the emotions – fear, excitement, pride, anger, guilt, sadness. When I talk to parents as a nurse, I remember being a NICU parent and I can bridge the difference from nursing to parents by helping them to understand the things nurses do, while including the parents in as much of the care as possible. I have seen so many parents become more engaged when I tell them that I had a 27-week premie and spent 10 weeks as a NICU parent. It seems to open up more questions from parents and gives me more opportunity to support the parents.
5. What do you enjoy most about specifically working at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital?
I have a stable career and have learned so much along the way. There are many opportunities to advance the nursing profession. But most of all, I work in a wonderful unit with many great co-workers who have become wonderful friends along the way.
6. What are some of your favorite memories of working at UF Health?
My favorite memories are of the patients and families that I help leave the NICU with a healthy baby—and when they come back so proud of the accomplishments their child has made since discharge from the hospital. I also have made some wonderful friends in the parents who I helped to say goodbye to their sweet babies who were too sick to stay with us. Knowing I can help in times of happiness and in times of great sadness is one of the greatest benefits of being a NICU nurse.
7. If you were not a nurse, what job do you think you would do?
I couldn’t see myself doing anything else. My only other job that beats being a NICU nurse is being a mom.