A Quick Exercise For Your Neonatal Therapy Team

By Sue Ludwig

How happy are you when:

  • Your unit receives photos of former NICU patients doing everything from getting off oxygen to being the fastest kid on their soccer team?
  • The family who suffered indescribable loss sends you a letter about their bumpy but powerful road to healing?
  • The little guy that survived despite the odds, weighing only a little over a pound at birth, is now 6’4” and applying to college?

This is why we get out of bed in the morning.

Sometimes those moments truly take our breath away. It’s why there’s so little turnover in the NICU – we can’t help but be inspired by the babies and families we serve.

It’s been shown (reference below) that people in general are happiest when they’re involved in something that is bigger than themselves.

The thing is, most people have to search outside of their work to find that level of purpose. They volunteer in the evenings or on weekends. They have to SEEK OUT activities that fulfill that need.

Our work in the NICU is inherently purposeful. Our desire to work hard in the short term to help a human being have the best possible quality of life is at the core of what we do. This makes us giddy.

So the only question is this: how do we infuse this purpose and the feeling it provides us into our everyday life in the NICU? Because let’s face it, as inspired as we are, work is not always sunshine and rainbows. (True story.)

Try this:

  1. Gather your team for just 10-20 mins a month.
  2. Share a photo, a quote, a parent story, a staff story, a quick activity –something that illustrates the purpose for which you’re working.
  3. Remind your colleagues that they’re working in a place of intense happiness, and yes, sorrow. Of love and loss. Of everyday heroes, and extraordinary events.
  4. Acknowledge the fact that your work has purpose built right in. Celebrate your contributions to your patients, families, and colleagues.

We work in a place of miracles. And sometimes we forget.

Make space for this recognition in your NICU. Ground your team in the WHY of their work. Transform your culture.

(Daniel H. Pink. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. 2011)

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