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Teamwork Lessons From The NICU

Maybe you grew up playing sports. Or maybe you took part in your school’s dramatic productions, band, or debate team. It’s likely that somewhere along the road of life you’ve been part of a group that shared a common goal.  

Sometimes you didn’t agree with everyone in that group and sometimes you jumped up and down together celebrating an accomplishment you never thought possible. 

And it was all worth it. 

Then one day you went to work in the NICU. You were part of a new team. There were different rules and higher stakes. There was coffee instead of Gatorade.  

You weren’t sure if you were going to fit in. After all, this place seemed to have a set of social rules that weren’t written down anywhere. You had to figure them out with trial and error, a lot of listening, and a few close allies. 

Over time, you learned that the NICU can produce the greatest teams around. And I’m speaking about all NICU staff here – every single person who walks through those doors. 

Teamwork Lessons from the NICU: 

1) When someone is ‘in the weeds’ you help them. No matter what. 

Neonatal nurses, RTs, and neonatology fellows taught me this: never leave a colleague who is overwhelmed with a sick patient or difficult situation. 

When you are dealing with a crisis, your team members don’t decide to run to lunch even though it’s the only time they may have for it. They don’t leave at the end of their shift even though staying late causes havoc in their personal lives. 

And you’re the same way. 

You do what needs to be done to help your colleague and the baby in her care. Period. I’ve witnessed countless acts of selflessness on the part of my colleagues as they took care of each other and therefore the baby. 

Like any team, you ‘put on our armor and go into battle’. The NICU teaches you that it’s essential to have each other’s back. It’s what great teams do. 

2) The Whole is Greater than the Sum of its Parts 

Everyone has a different skill set. 

And really, let’s be thankful for that. 

But sometimes people get a little ‘snarky’ when someone doesn’t practice exactly like they would right? Well, here’s the thing – everyone has their genius work. 

Some of you are so amazing at family education that others stand by and listen, wishing they had your words, your ability to connect, your evident compassion. 

Some can intubate under the greatest of pressure while others re-position a fragile baby expertly without undue stress.  

You may excel as a clinician while your colleagues collect data for their latest research study. And you’re both really happy you’re not in the other’s shoes! 

Some hospital team members empty the garbage ever so quietly as they clean the NICU every day because they understand that the babies need a quiet background for sleep and language development. 

The thing is, the NICU could not operate at such a high level if not for the unique skills of each staff member functioning as a whole. 

You are more than meets the eye. 

Apart, you are skilled, caring, talented individuals. Together you change lives each and every day.  

3) A Common Passionate Goal Changes Everything 

Many people can understand the thrill of opening night, Olympic gold, and jumping up and down in the end zone at the close of the Super Bowl. 

But few understand the thrill of seeing the newest photo of ‘baby Jacob’, born at 25 weeks – now 7 years old and showing off his toothless grin, standing in soccer cleats with his TEAM. You contributed to that moment, that adorable human.  

I’m not sure if it’s the fragility and innocence of the patients we serve or witnessing a stage of life and development others can’t imagine. Whatever it is, I’ve never met a more passionate group of caregivers. 

The NICU teaches you that despite all of your differences, when it comes to serving the best interests of your patients, you rally. 

The NICU team decides over and over to be part of something bigger. A life. Many lives. Precious lives. 

Working every day for the highest and best outcome for these babies and families is what inspires you. That passion makes your team capable of uncommon things. 

And for babies like Jacob, this changes everything. 

Thank your team today!