Why You Need To Make Time For Reflection

by: Luann Jones, DNP, APRN, NNP-BC, NE-BC

I don’t know about you, but for me as a nurse leader most days at work are a whirlwind.  There are some days when I look up at the clock and realize that I have not eaten lunch, much less had the time for strategic thinking or self-reflection, both of which are so important.  Jennifer Porter, Why You Should Make Time for Self- Reflection, (Even If You Hate Doing it) for Harvard Business Review emphasizes the importance of leaders prioritizing self-reflection:

“Reflection gives the brain an opportunity to pause amidst the chaos, untangle and sort through observations and experiences, consider multiple possible interpretations, and create meaning. This meaning becomes learning, which can then inform future mindsets and actions.”

Luann Jones

Support When You Need It Most

I have made it a priority to participate in the Synova Debriefing calls whenever they are offered, and what I appreciate about them is that we each have a chance to share what is going on in our respective units around the country.

Over this past year, we have all experienced the same feelings & frustrations regardless of the size of our units or where we are located around the country.  We have been able to learn from one another and support one another through it all.  What an amazing community to be a part of!

What I love most about these debriefing calls is that we are asked to close by sharing a self-reflection.   Sometimes we share a personal moment of happiness, like when I got my new puppy.  Sometimes we share about a team accomplishment or when all else fails we say we are grateful for each other.  Last month my self-reflection came in the form of a letter from a NICU parent that touched not just me but my entire NICU team.  It gave us all pause for reflection.  This letter came to us in a time when we sorely needed a morale boost and reminds us all of why we do what we do and that our sacrifices do not go unnoticed.

Here is that letter:

To Our NICU Nurses

Before our sweet boy, I didn’t understand what happened in the NICU. Very few people do.

But now I know.

I know that behind the locked doors of the NICU, miracles are happening every day because of you.

I know that in the NICU, you really run things. Your watchful eyes and hands-on experience dictate the decisions of the team, and our babies are better because of it. You know them best because you notice it all.

I know that when chaos ensues, when it all hits the fan, you come together as a team in an instant, working to restore the comforting rhythm of the NICU no matter what it takes. You know that every minute matters.

I know that when multiple orders come in for multiple babies and you have to get one of them to radiology at 2 pm (or maybe 6:30 pm) you somehow manage to put on your administrator hat and make it all happen. You know how to do even the craziest of days.

I know you care for families without missing a beat as if watching someone else awkwardly fumble with lines and wires while changing a diaper or giving a bottle is a totally normal thing. You know how to make us feel some semblance of normal in a world that feels upside down.

I know that you don’t always leave work at work, and often think of your babies outside of your 7-7 shift. I know that you leave your personal lives at the door to take mine on every time you care for my family. You know you can’t do this job without caring deeply for your families, and you do this so well.

I know that you are different from other nurses and I will never be able to think of my baby’s life without thinking of you.

I see you making beds look cute and coming by to gush over babies and picking out your favorite outfits and making signs to celebrate and make the NICU feel more like home.

I see you gently bathing babies before parents come up to see them for the first time to take away a small part of the pain that comes with seeing your baby in this condition and to give them something happy to focus on.

I see you taking phone call after phone call, answering question after question, with grace and love at the end of a long day.

I see you putting notes under the cameras for families to see.

I see you working extra shifts and staying late and rearranging your schedule because you care that much about your babies.

I see you stepping into re-tuck blankets and fix chords and adjust wires after another team has stopped by to ‘just take a listen’ and left your delicate work out of sorts.

I see you being family to babies who don’t have frequent visitors. I see you being family to me as I sit bedside alone.

I see you doing incredible tape jobs so I can do skin-to-skin and hold my baby while he eats through a tube. And I see you protecting that sacred time for me, day in and day out.

I see you letting me speak for my baby but also not being afraid to speak up when I’m overwhelmed or confused or unsure or afraid.

I see you getting down on my level to answer my questions instead of towering over me because you see me as part of the team too. You have the best bedside manner of any professional I know.

I see you taking the time to sit with me while a feed drops, even if all I can do is stare at my baby and hold back tears of discouragement.

I see you celebrating each small milestone, even when defeat rests on my face, encouraging me to celebrate the small things too, and pointing them out when they are too small to see.

I see you speaking softly to my baby and comforting him with a finger to hold or the hand on head and hand on feet hold that only you know how to do so well.

I see the way you look at your babies, and I know it. Because it’s the same way I look at mine.

It takes a special person to be entrusted with the care of such precious, feisty miracles.

Most of the world will never know how integral your role is in the life of a critically ill infant.

You can’t understand unless you’ve been here. And now I know.

I see how important you are. I see how passionate you are. I see how selfless you are. I see how tenacious you are. I see how deeply you care.

Next time you swipe your badge to enter this special space, please know that this mama sees you. I’m so grateful our lives became intertwined in the way they did. You sat with me in the most sacred of spaces and cared for my baby like he was your own. I trusted you entirely with my most precious gift and I would trust you all over again. I will never be able to give in return what you have given to me – a miracle. Thank you will never be enough.

You all are amazing.

With love,

A NICU mama

NICU nurse holding baby in car seat

From the Family

Noah was born at 33 weeks at 3lbs 7oz and was transferred to the NICU at Arkansas Children’s Hospital immediately after birth. He was born with a CHD (Tetralogy of Fallot), one functioning kidney, IUGR, and a host of other preemie issues. We were told a premature birth would be fatal with his medical conditions. But after 84 days in the NICU, going into cardiac arrest at one month old, and having open heart surgery for his full heart repair at four months old, he is now home for good and doing well! Noah is surpassing every expectation and continues to bring so much joy to our family. He is simply a miracle and every day with him is a gift!

This letter was inspired by Noah’s primary nurse, Natalie, who loved us both incredibly well during our NICU journey. Without her passion and his entire NICU and CVICU team at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, we would not be celebrating a single milestone.  They will forever be a part of our family!

Thank you to the Watkins family for sharing their story and the letter to their NICU nurses!


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