Colleen Burns
August 2017
Newborn ICU
University of Virginia Health System
United States




Colleen was caring for a medically fragile, extremely low birth weight infant born at 23 weeks gestation. The parents came to visit, and Colleen noted their eagerness to be involved in their infant's care while being overwhelmed with the complexity of her medical needs. She noted that the infant had never been held, despite her being nearly one month old and meeting criteria for skin-to-skin/kangaroo care. Colleen went above and beyond to coordinate several team members including several nurses and respiratory therapists to give this mother and baby their first opportunity to cuddle, despite the specialty ventilator and various other pieces of equipment the patient needed to sustain her life. She took time to educate the parents on what to expect during the process step-by-step, helping to calm their nerves and normalize the overwhelming environment of the NICU.
Soon after Colleen helped this mother provide kangaroo care, this infant became very ill, and her medical needs were such that she could no longer be held, making this experience even more important to meeting this family's emotional and psychological needs. That session of skin-to-skin contact has remained one of the few instances of holding that has occurred in this complex infant's many months of life. Many families experience PTSD while their infant is in the NICU, and it's nurses taking the time to craft these important moments of bonding and connection that help them survive this stressful period.