We need safe ratios

Cover story - we need safe ratios - IMG_8952Despite the vulnerability of their tiny charges, Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICU) do not have the same level of mandated nurse numbers as their adult ICU equivalents. Neonatal nurse Emily Orchard features

In a new NSWNMA campaign to inform the community about the need to improve ratios in these wards.

“We take extremely premature babies weighing from 450g upwards. We are one of the few hospitals in the state that does that, which is really exciting,” Emily, who works in the Special Care Nursery attached to a NICU in Western Sydney, told The Lamp. “We often have babies with complex syndromes.” It is a fantastic area to work in. It is very rewarding and challenging.

“My first day at work was terrifying. You don’t realise how small they are. You’re holding up these little babies and, literally, the length of their torso will fit in your hand. Our babies are a third the size of a newborn.

“It’s very busy in an NICU. It is chaos sometimes. It is constantly moving. We do have babies who don’t make it because of their size and the complications that come from their being so premature.

“Unfortunately it’s one of the risks that comes with these tiny bubs. But it’s an amazing feeling when you watch a baby you’ve nursed go out with a very happy mum and dad.

“It’s an area I always thought would be brilliant. It’s my dream job. I have to get up at 4am but it doesn’t bother me. I love it.

“It’s incredibly important to be resourced. You can’t do your job unless you have the resources to do it.

“It’s such a challenging environment. You need that fully stocked ward. You need all the medications to be there. You need all the nursing staff to be able to carry out all the work. You can’t do it without having enough nurses available.

“We need safe ratios. We need nurses with less patients. It should be 1:3 but it is usually more like 1:4. If you have three that are very sick and a fourth one as well it is very difficult to manage. To have extra hands would be unbelievable.”