Leaving the NICU for the PICU

Tonight is my second to last night in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit at the University of Utah.

Wow. This is something I have been hoping for and dreading the last 6 months.

I’ve been paralyzed by indecision. Should I stay? Should I leave? What will be best for my career? What will be best for my family? Only in the last two months have I felt sure that a change was necessary.

As soon as I realized I wanted to go to school to become a Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) I learned that the experience I was getting in the NICU may not be adequate.

I applied in August for two different schools and one of the applications asked how often on a weekly basis I work with patients on a ventilator or how often I work with vasoactive medications. Considering the fact that I’ve only had 2 patients on the vent in the year that I’ve been here and never worked with any patients on vasoactive meds, both of those answers had to be zero.

The idea is that these programs want to make sure their applicants are familiar with ventilation, understand vent settings and how they can be manipulated according to patient condition, and how to titrate medications based on how a patient responds, and manage sedation as well. Critical care is the only setting in which this is possible. While the NICU does care for critically ill newborns/neonates the amount of patients that meet this criteria is rarely available due the rarity and also the preference being given to those nurses with experience and seniority.

I realized if I was serious about this dream I had to put myself in an environment where that kind of opportunity was more readily available, and that just isn’t in the NICU I’m in. At least not anytime in the near future.

That being said, it is a bittersweet transition.

There are so many nurses here (around 130 nurses) that I feel like I’m just getting to know a lot of people. And those that I have been able to get to know well have really made this a fun place to work, as well as a hard place to leave. This has been my very first nursing job. I’ve learned how to find my footing and my voice among those with experience that want to shame me into believing I’m incompetent. I’ve been able to connect with parents in some of the scariest times of their lives. It seems so weird to leave. But I know that this decision will set me up for success in the future.

So, I am transferring to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Primary Children’s Hospital. While it’s only a sky bridge away, the experience will be drastically different. After one day of orientation on the unit it’s become very clear to me that this job will require more of me than I’ve ever given before. Intellectually, physically, and emotionally. It’s about 95% exciting and 5% terrifying. This is exactly what I’ve been wanting! That doesn’t mean it won’t be difficult, though. I’m trying to keep in mind, even now with things not even reaching their peak craziness, that this is a change I have been wanting and will afford me the opportunity to grow and learn.

Even though I wasn’t able to stay for as long as I had anticipated, I will be forever grateful to those who showed me kindness in the NBICU and supported me as a brand new nurse. Their efforts will not be soon forgotten.

I'm a 23 year old NICU RN, living my best life with my best friend Derek. We've been married since May 29th, 2015.

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