Why Do You Work in the NICU?

By Sue Ludwig

I was sitting in a local restaurant with my husband and 6 of our good friends. A woman cautiously walked up to our table with an adorable little girl flitting about her.

She asked me if my first name was Sue, and as I replied, the memories of this woman and her family came pouring back. Her daughter was now in elementary school, so it had been a number of years since she spent time in our NICU.

The mother re-introduced me to her daughter, a sweet soul I’d known for a matter of weeks all those years ago. And never forgot.

The mother explained to her daughter all that I did with her, and how together we helped her learn to ‘drink the milk that made her strong’. I asked her daughter a few questions about her life now, which she answered happily and politely before asking if she could run back and play with her friends. Her sparkly little eyes caught mine as she ran away and I was surprised by the sudden tears that arose as I watched her go.

Her mother asked me how all of her favorite nurses were doing and then said, “I honestly don’t know how you all do it. Why do you keep doing a job that must be so hard, so emotionally intense – I mean, you MUST get so attached.”

I replied, “For moments exactly like this. That’s why we do it.”

You likely have similar experiences. And like me, you never get tired of them.

Underneath the challenges and frustrations of healthcare, this remains: the work you do changes lives. It’s supportive and pivotal and powerful.

It makes 2 people who haven’t seen each other in years tear up with spoken and unspoken gratitude.

I can’t put my finger on what first led me to work in the NICU, but this is certainly why I never left this space. 

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