Profiling Prematurity - meet Priya!

November is a month where we raise awareness of premature births and admissions to neonatal intensive care units internationally. Each year approximately 15 million babies are born preterm (37 weeks gestation) worldwide, with a global preterm birth rate of about 11%. In Australia 1 in 10 babies is born premature and approximately 15% of all babies require some form of extra care at birth with admission to a Special Care Nursery (SCN) or Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Each year on 17th November we celebrate World Prematurity Day, this year to coincide with WPD and #neonatalnovember we are launching a series called 'Profiling Prematurity'. We have approached a number of our staff who have been personally affected by the NICU and asked them to tell us their stories. We are exceptionally grateful to the Grace NICU staff and their families who have kindly agreed to participate in the series and share their personal journeys. 

In our second profiling prematurity interview meet Priya she is a Clinical Nurse Educator in our NICU. 

Tells us why you have been asked to be part of the profiling prematurity series: (staff member in NICU and own premature birth)  

I was born in October 1979 at CMCH hospital, India. I was born at 33 weeks and was one of those babies who was lucky to receive the best care in the hospital. I remember my parents saying that they were so blessed to have me, and the doctors and nurses who provided the upmost care I needed at that time. My parents said that I was a fighter and i loved my food and tolerated naso-gastric tube feeds within the first week of like and I showed signs of growth. My parents had restrictions on visiting time which was quite stressful to them and I remember my father saying that somedays he would just look at me through the window and go home. My parents lived close to the hospital, so I was discharged home early on paladai feeds, which means cup feeding and community team follow-up. My parents always said that it was incredibly hard, but they made it.

 What have you parents told you about your birth and NICU stay?

Forty years ago, it wasn’t believed that late preterm infants might not be expected to live with a good chance of normal development. I have heard few stories from my grandmother who was one of the key people in my life. She strongly believed in cuddles, not sure if it was skin to skin, but which helped me grow well and strong. Even today, my father would say to me ‘I never thought you would talk so much and now you’re here talking endlessly’. My parents always said that the support of the SCN staff, along with family helped us through during those difficult times. These positive experiences created an impact on my mother, and she decided that one day I would be a baby nurse somewhere looking after those sick babies and their families. Now I am strong women, empowering others, however, one thing I always wished was that I had a journal of ‘my journey’ so that I could look back and recreate those memories.

 

How did you come to work in Grace and did being an NICU graduate influence your choice to work in the NICU?

I started working in Grace Centre for Newborn intensive care Unit since September 2007. Hearing my stories from my parents, I always wanted to work in a paediatric hospital as I developed a sense of passion for looking after the families and their babies. My parent’s beliefs and values also assisted me to pursue my career to work with babies. The NICU is not the type of environment where new parents would typically dream for their baby’s first home. My own experience influenced my choice of work as I strongly felt that I could make a difference in the life of the sick newborns and their families. Currently, I am working as a Clinical Nurse Educator and I believe that I do the best I can to support parents and provide evidenced-based care to the babies in the NICU. At times I found, leaving work at work to be difficult, however, the best moments for me are watching the parents when they get to change their baby’s nappy, bath them for the first time, having their first cuddles  and experience their baby’s normal milestones for the first time and finally seeing them get to go home is an amazing and satisfying experience.

 

Tell us about your proudest moments and biggest achievements.

I always did well at school, however, my proudest moment for me and my parents was when I graduated from one of the best nursing schools in India and received the award for Best student in Clinicals. Further, I went to pursue my Masters in Paediatric Nursing and received the award for Best outgoing student in Masters in Paediatric Nursing, and secured University rank in Post-Graduate Studies which I consider to be one of my biggest achievements.  My love and passion for babies and their parents didn’t stop there, I enrolled for Ph.D. at the University of Sydney so that I could be involved in research to help parents during their stressful period in NICU. I have successfully submitted my thesis, with four publications and awaiting my graduation ceremony.

My proudest moment is and always will be looking after the sick babies and their families.

What would you like parents of babies in the NICU to know?

The NICU can be overwhelming and if you are unsure of anything it’s to ask questions again and again. Visit often and spend as much as time as you can with your baby.  Be involved in your baby’s care and I would like to assure you that you are always the primary caregiver of your baby. I also request parents to write a journal which gives them the opportunity to express their love to their baby, reflect on what’s happening, and keep track of their baby’s journey. It might look to be one of the hardest things you have ever had to experience, but trust me preterm babies could have normal growth and development with parents’ involvement and support. Knowing what to expect in the NICU could make things easier for you, so please ask questions and make some noise. I can assure you that you are being heard, and you have one of the most important roles to play in the NICU.

Thank you so much to Priya for sharing her and her family’s story!