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A Day in the Life of a NICU Team Leader

July 08, 2021

Guest blogger: Jackie Cherry

My name is Jackie Cherry and I am a Senior Sister on the Trevor Mann Baby Unit in Brighton.

When I was younger, my dad often joked he wanted me to be a jockey, but I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do until I was in my late teens. I decided to go into nursing after listening to a couple of my aunties who were nurses and loved it. So, when I turned 18, I thought I might be good at it and decided to give it a go.

My main responsibility is as Team Leader, which involves co-ordinating all aspects of running a 27-bed, Level 3 unit that will admit any baby from 22 weeks gestation up to full-term.

We need to be ready at all times for emergencies on the unit and unexpected admissions of babies needing help. Care for the babies ranges from providing Intensive Care for the extremely premature babies, which may require surgery or specialised cooling therapy, to High Dependency or even Special Care.

Part of my job is to make sure there is adequate staffing, that equipment checks are done, and to allocate staff/baby ratio appropriately, as well as supporting the staff in their clinical duties.
I liaise with lots of other people throughout my day – from surgeons, physios, speech and language therapists, outreach teams, pharmacists and Ronald McDonald House staff, as well as dealing with any staff issues and listening to parents’ concerns.
I meet with Maternity staff each shift about potential admissions and also with other units with regards to the need for transfer of emergencies to our unit or to move babies back nearer home when the time is right.

One of these units is a Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) at the Princess Royal Hospital, where we also cover any issues that may arise. There’s always a certain amount of paperwork that needs to be completed, and I try to balance my day so that I can be helpful on the unit with patient care. I like to be ‘hands on’ as much as possible and will get involved wherever needed from assisting with an emergency to nappy changes to sorting out linen or cleaning and tidying if needed.

Phone calls, problems, questions, and queries about all manner of things, from all different people, come my way for me to try and troubleshoot and sort out on a daily basis. It can be very challenging and fast paced at times.

The best part of my job is that every day is different. We build lovely, friendly relationships with families and for a short while, we get to share their journeys. Being able to make a difference and to do a good job is important. We celebrate the highs and are able to offer help and support to families through the lows.

Sometimes it’s the little gestures to try to ease the stress that can make all the difference. It’s lovely to see families come back year on year, something we have really missed recently, and see how their little ones have grown and to celebrate all their achievements – no matter how big or small – because some have to face big challenges every day.   

Having Ronald McDonald House Brighton takes an enormous amount of pressure off us. We don’t have to worry about families being stressed and upset at being so far away for a long time. It keeps families much closer to the hospital so we can meet with parents regularly to discuss any issues relating to care or treatment. It also helps to alleviate the stress and anxiety of separation. They can meet with other families to chat and support each other.

Ronald McDonald Houses also help the children; parents aren’t tired from travelling long distances and suffering from the stress of being separated. Because parents are able to visit regularly, babies benefit from the interaction with their parents and get lovely skin-to-skin time. For mums that want to breastfeed, being so close can improve their ability to be able to express regularly and provide milk for their baby. Ultimately, we are able to spend more time teaching parents how to care for their little ones.

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