1. Witt, Catherine L. RNC, MS, NNP-BC

Article Content

One of the great things about a career in nursing is that there are endless choices when it comes to what you can do. Even in a specialized field like neonatal nursing, there are a multitude of ways to become involved, to learn something new, and to advance the profession of nursing. As health care continues to be reorganized and reinvented, as nurses we must be resilient, flexible, and most of all involved.

Catherine L. Witt... - Click to enlarge in new windowCatherine L. Witt

There are probably not many of us that embarked on a nursing career thinking "well, this will be something where I can just show up every day and earn a paycheck." Hopefully, most of you chose the field of neonatal care because you were interested in taking care of patients, in learning about disease processes, and acquiring skills needed to take care of the smallest and sickest patients. You chose nursing because you cared about people and valued the connections you make with your patients and families. And let's face it; what could be a better job than taking care of babies? Unfortunately, the day-to-day burden of hospital and insurance bureaucracies, difficult coworkers, challenging family situations, and staffing problems can lead some to become bored, resigned, tired, and crabby.


Before you decide the grass is greener in another specialty area (or another career altogether), stop and consider what you can do to change that fear and resignation into hope and energy. What do you need to do to stretch yourself and get out of your comfort zone? There is no need to assume that you have to go to work and do the same thing day after day. Every unit has opportunities to get involved in projects, to make improvements, to be creative, and to learn something new. Participating in even one of those activities can energize you and lead to better care for our patients, which after all, our work is all about. It also gives you the opportunity to expand your resume, and by doing so, make yourself more valuable, employable, and influential. While it might be comforting to assume that you can hang out in the same job until you retire, the future cannot be easily predicted. The more you can do, and the more you contribute, the more "employable" you are. As more than 1 author points out, your resume should not look the same this year as last year.1,2


Lest you think you are not a leader, and it is acceptable to sit in the middle and continue the status quo, consider that nurses comprise the biggest group of health care providers. What happens in health care is likely to affect nursing significantly. One author points out that nurses are responsible for providing safe, effective care, timely admissions, family and patient education, and coordinating an interdisciplinary team.3 All of this is likely to become more complex, not less, and requires nurses to become more knowledgeable and influential about system issues. The advantage to our position is that there are multitudes of ways we can do this, so no matter what your area of interest is, there is something that you can be excited about.


This month we feature 2 examples of things that make neonatal care so interesting. The first is the debut of our new feature on issues in neonatal transport. Even if you don't participate in transporting babies by ambulance, helicopter, or plane, you probably take care of infants who are either transferred into your unit or being prepared to be transported out of your unit. In our first article, Elizabeth Schierholz describes the challenges our patients endure during flight. It might also make you think about how to better endure your next airline trip!!


The second example is the abstracts published that were presented at the 2010 research symposium in April. There are excellent examples of nursing research with practical applications to our care. If you have been thinking that research is too hard, or too boring to become involved with, let these examples inspire you. Look around your unit and see what needs to be improved. What questions do you and your coworkers struggle with on a daily basis? Those are great opportunities to investigate how to do things better.


As you think about moving forward, consider attending the upcoming NANN national meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada. The value of attending a conference put on by the professional organization cannot be overstated. You will have an opportunity to attend a variety of interesting and informative lectures. The exhibit hall is packed with the latest innovations for caring for our patients and their families. There will be poster presentations of research, education, and practice initiatives that can lead you change what you do in your unit. Perhaps the best part of attending the conference in person is the opportunity to network with other nurses from around the country and even from other parts of the world. You will find that they face many of the same challenges you do, and have created solutions to many of the problems you face. You will meet leaders in neonatal nursing and find that they are indeed human, and approachable, and more than willing to share advice and ideas. All of them started at the beginning, and many will tell you they first became involved by attending the NANN national meeting and realizing that they too could do more with their career. Let them be an inspiration for you.




1. Haller KB. Seven strategies for retooling yourself. JOGNN. 1995;24:115. [Context Link]


2. Chenevert M. What Next Nurse? The Career Planner for Panic Stricken Nurses. Gaithersburg, MD: Pro-Nurse Press; 1997. [Context Link]


3. Perretto A, Grossman MB. Ten ways to the top: entice the next generation of nurses into leadership positions. Nurs Manag. 2010;41(4):29-32. [Context Link]