Books for Babies
Once Upon a Time . . .
. . . in a land not so far away, a nurse with a big heart cares for the tiniest patients
Of all the traits that make an excellent neonatal intensive care nurse, perhaps one of the most important is intuition. After all, our hospital's tiniest patients can't say what is wrong, where it hurts or if they're afraid. Mary Lammers, RN-C, has been a NICU nurse at Children's Hospital for 19 years. Her intuition, hard won through years of experience, is often what guides her during the intense days and nights of caring for critically ill and premature newborns. "They are so tiny," Lammers said. "And the equipment we use to help them is even smaller. Their breathing tubes are the size of coffee stirrers." According to Barb Brucks, RN-C, MSN, manager of the unit, the average tenure for a NICU nurse at any one facility is about five years.
However, most of the nurses on her staff, like Lammers, have been at Children's Hospital for more than 15 years. "Mary is very skilled and has an incredibly solid knowledge base when it comes to caring for sick babies," Brucks said. "But more than that, she loves those babies and really takes her job to heart. It's her own intuition combined with those years of experience that make her uniquely qualified to do this job so well." In part, it was intuition that led Lammers to bring a special care program, called Books for Babies, to the NICU in 1999. "An important part of our job is teaching new, frightened parents how they can help care for their sick infants," Lammers said. "They're often overwhelmed, upset and scared. It's good for both the parents and the infants to get them involved in their babies' care as soon as possible."
Each child's parents receive a children's book when they arrive, and at the start of every month they get another new book. Parents are encouraged to read the books aloud to their babies, creating a way for them to be active in their children's care. For parents who can't yet touch their frail babies, the voice-recognition bonding has proven extremely important. "It really helps," Lammers said. "There's research that proves these babies gain real health benefits from hearing their parents' voices. It's calming and soothing to the babies, and it gives the parents a real role in their infants' care." The nurses also put each baby's footprints on the inside cover of every book, giving the parents a way to see their baby's growth from month to month until their infants get to go home. That, Lammers says, is the most rewarding part of her job. "I get so attached, probably too attached, to these babies," she said. "Sometimes they're here for months, and they really start to feel like part of my own family. I'm sad but happy to see them go. I get to see them grow and get better and come back to visit. When they leave, I can't help but think, 'they're going to go off and do something great."
For more information about Books for Babies, e-mail Mary Lammers, RN-C.
For all other gifts to MU Children's Hospital, contact Laura Gajda, executive director for advancement, at (573) 884-8883.