(From L to R) Melissa Koonce, RN, Kimberly Hodson, RN and Nicole Shaffer, RN pose within the Chambersburg Hospital NICU.
Wednesday, September 14, 2016

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. – A step inside the Newborn Intensive Care Unit within Chambersburg Hospital’s Family Birthing Unit reveals a nurse quietly rocking and feeding a premature newborn.

As she carefully burps the tiny baby, she also runs her fingers softly though the baby’s hair, caressing and comforting the young child.

“Being a NICU nurse is almost like detective work, the littlest sign or symptom could make a huge difference in a baby’s care so it takes very special attention,” explained Melissa Koonce, a Certified RN who works within the unit, as she rhythmically rocked and then burped, and then fed the newborn.

But her efforts aren’t just focused on the newborns, it’s also her job to educate the babies’ families so they know how to give the special care they will need when they are discharged.

“NICU nursing is such a blend of using the latest technology and focusing on family centered care, it allows for artful nursing where you can tap into your nurturing side,” she said.  “It is truly such a privilege to see these tiny beings go from sick preemies to growing and thriving babies.”

It can be a balancing act, but the dedicated staff within the Chambersburg Hospital NICU say the outcomes make it all worth it.

“It’s so rewarding to see a premature baby who is initially very touch-and-go, and then see them be able to go home with the family we have been able to guide and educate along the way,” explained Kimberly Hodson, RN.

She explained her job is also about understanding the emotional stress a family endures while their newborn is in need of intensive care.

“You really have got to have compassion.  I’ve never met a woman who hoped for a premature or sick baby, and this is often the most devastating time of their lives,” she said, while keeping one eye on a monitor of a young patient.  “You have to be able to understand and to develop a bond with them to earn their trust, because this is their baby, this is their life that you have in your hands.”

As these nurses go above and beyond caring for their patients with every shift, their dedication has not gone unnoticed.  Chambersburg Hospital will be celebrating and honoring the nurses who work in the NICU to coincide with National Neonatal Nurses Day on September 15.

The specialized unit was opened in January and offers care for premature babies or newborns with medical complications.  For more information please click here.