With strength and gratitude, Kacey Nowaczyk, RN, cares for the youngest patients during the most difficult challenges of their families’ lives. Kacey has been a registered nurse, working in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), for over a year and strives to provide the best care for her patients. In this nurse story, she discusses her passion for nursing and her journey so far.
Why did you become a nurse?
I believe when you grow up in an environment where you experience others caring and helping those in need, or you experience an event that causes you to think ‘this is what I want to do, or I want to do that but better.’ I grew up in a healthcare family and had a passion to care for others. It all started with babysitting for families. From there I decided to complete a certified nursing assistant program where I got my certified nursing assistant (CNA) license and began practicing. It was then I knew nursing was what I was destined to do. I began furthering my education to become a registered nurse. I knew I wanted to help others and could provide the utmost best care possible, and that would be rewarding.
Tell us about your journey as a nurse – where did it start, what has it been like, what have you encountered along the way.
My journey has been very rewarding. I started out as a CNA where I worked in a skilled nursing facility. While going to school for my licensed practical nurse, I practiced as a CNA on a med-surg/oncology floor. I then graduated with my LPN where I started in a skilled nursing facility, then gained experience within an internal medicine physician’s office, assisted with a COVID-19 vaccine clinic and ended my LPN career doing home health and hospice care. I went back to school for my RN where I started in surgical ICU and now practice in a neonatal ICU, which is definitely my niche in nursing. My journey to become an RN has been long, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I’ve gained so much diverse experience and have cared for so many great people along the way. The neonatal ICU is a nursery that provides around-the-clock care for sick or premature babies. These neonates are truly little fighting angels who came into the world too soon.
How would you explain working in the NICU to someone?
They are so strong and tough and continue to amaze me every day with the little milestones they meet. They definitely keep you on your toes as things can turn around quickly, and you have to be ready for whatever they throw your way. You have to show up to work every day ready for the unknown.
When did you realize you had a passion for nursing?
I always knew nursing was for me, but it wasn’t until I started in the neonatal ICU that I finally felt like I belonged and was where I was supposed to be. The NICU is a huge blessing to be able to care for such small innocent humans fighting for their lives. To be able to be a part of their journey, watch them meet their milestones, grow and go home is so rewarding. It’s such a blessing to be able to make an impact on infants and their families. The NICU is definitely my calling.
What is the best patient experience you’ve ever had, and what did it teach you?
I’ve cared for many patients through my career, but the best experience is simply the act of patients/families being so grateful for my work. That’s when you know you’ve made an impact when they verbalize how much they appreciate you. It’s rewarding knowing you’ve helped someone and have done everything you could possibly do for them.
What are you most thankful for in your journey of becoming the nurse you are today?
I’m most thankful for my journey and the experience I’ve gained along the way. I’ve cared for so many different populations and worked in multiple different roles. You learn to appreciate every role someone may have in a patient's care. Every role is so important in its own way. Whether it’s housekeeping, CNA, nurse, doctor, PT/OT, radiology, transporters, etc., we really couldn’t do it without the whole team.
You work with patients who are often too young to properly express how and what they are feeling. How do you work with families to best support and care for your patients?
Communication is key to the care of patients who cannot speak for themselves. Effective communication with families, listening and advocating for your patients is so important in providing safe and effective care for these little ones.
In the NICU, what does family support look like and how important is it to the overall care of your patients?
No one wishes to have their baby stay longer in the hospital than they do. Everyone expects to go home with their baby. Many parents feel like it’s their fault, that there’s a lack of bonding with their newborn, that they are a failure with breastfeeding/pumping, and I’m sure it is so difficult to cope with. Supporting the parents and getting them involved in any way possible can feel like such a big thing to them. Letting them provide oral care with their breast milk, skin to skin when possible, changing the diaper, or tips on how to produce milk while their infant is in the hospital can make a world of a difference. Keeping in touch and providing effective communication is key to supporting these parents.
What are you grateful for, as it relates to being a NICU nurse?
I’m most grateful for the opportunity to care for these little babies. They didn’t choose to come into this world so soon, but you can definitely make a difference assisting with their transition to the world. Success stories are so rewarding when taking part in their care.
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