Not everyone can work for their church or diocese. As a result, it can be difficult for many people to find ways to prioritize their faith at work, especially when they’re just starting out in the workforce. Some find a little time for God in their breaks; others put their faith on hold while they trudge through another stressful day at their job, perhaps saving some time afterward for prayer and meditation. Then there are NICU nurses.
Kim Wickersham is a registered nurse in the NICU at Dupont Hospital, Fort Wayne. NICU stands for Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, where babies go if they have medical complications or were born very prematurely. Newborns can stay in the NICU for days, weeks or perhaps longer, depending on their condition.
NICU babies are often very small, fragile and sick. It takes a lot of patience and care to handle these most delicate of patients. Wickersham is one of several nurses who care for these tiny infants until they are healthy enough to take home.
“When dealing with sick babies, you really have no choice but to prioritize faith,” she said. “Every time I step into work, the life of a baby is in my hands. I would be a fool to not use my faith and the power of prayer to channel God into every consoling word I say to parents and every healing touch I give to their child.”
Wickersham shared her journey from college to her career. Obtaining her first job offer before she had even graduated, she accepted it without thinking twice about the decision. However, by the end of her studies the appeal of nursing had started to fade. Hoping that getting into the field would change her mind, she started on a surgical unit — the place where she was recommended to start as a new nurse. She made every patient feel important, and her confidence rose with her skills; but something was missing. She did not find enjoyment in her work and wondered if she had made a huge mistake.
She decided to search for a new job, hoping that working on a pediatric unit instead of a surgical unit would be the answer to her prayers. After making a few calls, she was hired by a unit that cross-trains between pediatrics and NICU. There was a shortage of nurses in the NICU, so she went to train there first.
“I was absolutely terrified to work in the NICU,” Wickersham recalled. “I knew nothing about NICU. We learned practically nothing about that specific population in school, and I had only walked through a unit once. But I was willing to try anything to get out of my current job and not waste my entire college education.”
Once she started working in the NICU, the thoughts of joining a pediatric unit dissipated. She had found her calling. But that calling is anything but easy. There are new challenges every day, mountains of stress and intense performance pressures. Lives hang in the balance, and she and her coworkers are sometimes the last line of defense for the preemie babies.
“Every day before I go in, I pray that it will be a good shift,” Wickersham said. “I pray that my co-workers and I can act as guardian angels to the precious newborns that are entrusted to our care. Every delivery I go to, I pray that the baby comes out vigorous. Every code I’ve been a part of, I pray that the baby gets their heart rate back. Every baby we lose, I pray for its soul and for the grieving parents. Is it difficult? Of course. But God is good, and I will continue to do my best. And it will be worth it.”
For NICU nurses like Wickersham, faith will always be an integral part of their careers. Practically her entire workday, from the moment she walks in to the moment she steps out, is filled with prayers for those she is serving — those whose lives she is in charge of protecting. She may not have liked where she started, but the doubt is gone now that she has discerned her vocation — a process that leads to glorifying God in one’s work.
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