This summer I experienced my first internship at St. Louis Children's Hospital's neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), through Washington University's School of Medicine.
When first telling people about my internship, I often got a variety of this response: Oh wow, do you think you'll be able to handle that? Those babies are in such awful conditions.
I was defensive of this from the start. I had shadowed and volunteered two other times in a NICU and was well aware of what I was getting myself into. I know some of these responses were from personal experiences, such as having their own little one in the NICU, or just from the shock of me working in any type of intensive care unit.
I kept my responses simple: I knew what went on in the NICU and I'd be fine, at the least.
If someone were to ask me now about how my time was in the NICU, I'd answer simply with "I rocked it!" My interest in the NICU was strong to begin with, but that interest blossomed into an extreme passion as I gained this experience.
While many people may think that it's typical for a female to be interested in cute, tiny babies, it is so much more than that. It's actually not that at all. These babies aren't in good condition- some don't even open their eyes, so it's clear that their adorableness alone is not what drives me to want to be involved and help.
I knew what I was getting into, and yes, at times, it was hard to see a baby in such intense situations, but now I can't imagine my life without them.
As an Occupational Therapist, there are so many amazing things to do with neonates, and to see their progress is a blessing and a feeling like no other. Even just seeing their vitals stabilize through the use of your comforting touch, voice, or blanket holding is overpowering. Seeing them go home with their families is one of the most joyful sights in the world.
While working in the NICU may not be for everyone, I believe that God placed me there for a reason. He made my passion grow straight from Freshman year, never letting me give up.
So in short, despite seeing babies critically ill, abandoned by their families, experiencing bedside surgery, and some passing onto heaven-- yes, I can handle it. I did handle it. I want to handle it. I want to handle it every single day. While not everyone can be there for them to make them feel safe, I can.
Fortunately, my internship didn't stop in early August like it was supposed to.
I was offered a paid spot on the team to stay, and boy-oh-boy could you guess what I said?