What is your role?
“I work in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) as a nurse. In NICU we see babies who are born too sick, too soon. We’ll care for any baby born before 36 weeks or any baby with a very low birth weight, low blood sugar or problems with feeding. Babies come on here for 24 or 48 hours, or they can be here for six months – it just depends on what care they need
“There are three main areas to NICU: special care, high dependency and intensive care. Normally, during a stay, a baby moves from intensive care, to high dependency and then to special care, before being ready to go home: it’s a kind of stepping-down process. I’ve recently qualified to work in the intensive care area, caring for the most poorly babies who can’t breathe by themselves or who have serious heart problems. We work a bit differently in NICU to other wards in the hospital. Often we can work with a baby all the way through their stay and during that time we are dedicated to their care. In intensive care we either have one-to-one or one-to-two care, depending on the level of monitoring the baby needs.
“In other areas of NICU, we can work alongside health care assistants and look after six babies together but in intensive care, you are really focused on one or two, making regular observations.
“We also work closely with parents, who are allowed to visit their baby 24 hours a day, seven days a week. When a baby is ready to go home we often have parents come in and stay for a night or two in one of our flats we have on site. There we can then prepare them, showing them how to give medicine or oxygen if they need it.”
Why did you want this job?
“I always wanted to be a nurse. My mum is a nurse and my dad is an operating department practitioner so growing up it was the only thing I wanted to do. I came to Derby to train and when I had finished a job came available in NICU. It wasn’t what I really wanted to do – that was paediatrics. But I was working with children so I was happy. After a couple of years a job came up in paediatrics and so I moved into it but I missed NICU more than I thought I would and came back soon afterwards.
“It’s a special job, really. I think everyone who works here has had those special few babies they remember but you are a professional and though you build bonds with babies and their parents you have to keep a certain distance, too. You get to be involved in a very privileged moment. The first time you might see a mum or a dad they are devastated and scared and then you are involved all the way through, helping care for that baby and you can watch those same parents leave, with their child, and they are so much happier. That’s amazingly rewarding.”
What do you like about working at Derby Teaching Hospitals particularly?
“We have a really great team in Derby’s NICU. It is that feeling of being part of a team which I most love about working here, I think. We hug each other, cry with each other and laugh together. There are a lot of emotions, working in NICU and you find ways to deal with things yourself. The biggest thing is being there for each other.
“The other amazing thing is the chance to develop yourself. I’ve just completed a degree which means I can work in intensive care; that was done through work. And there ways you can work in different areas and learn new skills. There are always courses we can go on for professional development.”
Why did you decide to take part?
“I think the main reason was because I feel no one really understands NICU until they need it. Nobody really knows we are here and even if they do, they don’t quite know what we do. But it’s a really different kind of department and I hoped that the programme could capture that and show the skill and warmth of our team and how we play a part in people’s lives.
“I also thought it could be a way to show my friends and family what I do. My partner doesn’t get it at all. I tell him ‘I’m saving lives in there every day!’ and he just can’t see what it is we do. I don’t think he’s alone so hopefully this will help people see.
“I’m also excited to see the other parts of the hospital on screen. You know your own area well but there are other places where you don’t really know what goes on. I just thought it was a really unique opportunity.”
How was it working with the camera and crew?
“It was good fun. The crew were absolutely brilliant. They would stop as soon as we asked them to stop and they were sensitive to what we needed to do. They knew that what was happening to Jacob would affect him his whole life and they just seemed to understand how to capture this without interfering at all.
“There was one scene where they wanted me to pull a curtain across and they must have asked me to do that a dozen times. It didn’t seem as if I was doing it any differently but they were finally happy. But then you see the finished thing it makes complete sense – it’s the best, most dramatic curtain-pulling I’ve ever done.”
How do you think viewers will react to the programmes – especially to the parts you appear in?
“I hope people will realise what we do here in NICU. I think people tend to see me as a nurse who gets to cuddle babies and that’s about it. Or they see NICU as this place of doom and gloom which must be so sad to work in all the time. And neither of those things are true. Yes, it is emotional and intense and sometimes there are tears but it is a happy place and we work hard and we get to do something really special.
“I think people will really respond to the storyline about baby Jacob. When the crew first heard about him he had been in NICU for quite a few weeks already. But he had just taken a turn for the worse. Because his parents were happy to be part of the filming, we were able to work with the crew to show the whole journey, really, as he got better and then finally was able to go home. But they also captured the difficult and emotional moments where it became apparent what had happened to Jacob would affect his whole life.
“I think any parents or people hoping to be parents will respond to this and anyone who has gone through something similar will really connect.”
What will you remember most about the experience?
“I learnt what continuity was, definitely. I’ve always preferred to wear a tunic and trousers at work, just find them more comfortable, but my mum is always saying that nurses wear dresses. Anyway, when she knew I was taking part in this programme she insisted I wear a dress and I agreed. So we did a few weeks of filming and I’d worn the dress all this time.
“But the crew came back again to catch up and get a few more scenes and they only had a short amount of time and I was wearing my trousers and tunic. So I was dashing about, borrowing a dress off one colleague and a pair of shoes off another. We got it done in the end, though.”