Katie Huffman
May 2021
Neonatal Intensive Care Unit
The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center
United States




Katie was this sweet boy's primary nurse on day shift, and she cared for him and spent more time with his family than anyone else.
Working in the Neonatal ICU is a series of the greatest of joys and the most painful sorrows. As a NICU nurse you are there for the happiest days of a family's life, as they welcome their new child into this world, with all the joys and dreams of a family and a future. You are also present for the moments when those dreams crumble and the ground is ripped out from under these families, as they come to terms with the fact that the future they imagined for themselves, and their child, will never come to fruition.

In the 5 years I have had the pleasure of working alongside Katie I have witnessed the most compassionate nursing care come from her hands and her words. She gives so much of herself day after day after day. The specific patient and family story I am nominating Katie for today is one that I know she will never forget, and neither will her patient's family. This specific family welcomed their baby boy into the world very early, he was extremely small and sick and fragile. His birth was traumatic, a full resuscitation that his little body barely survived. His parents were forced to make decisions about how long to keep going and how many more procedures they wanted him to sustain.

Over the course of his 2 1/2 week stay in our unit, Katie was this sweet boy's primary nurse on day shift, and she cared for him and spent more time with his family than anyone else. The situation was complicated, ethically challenging, heavy, and moment to moment changing. I myself cared for this patient and his family and felt the weight of it after only a couple of hours. But Katie, despite this challenge, continued to show up for this baby and his parents in a way that my words can't even capture. Specifically, it was clear that this family was not letting themselves bond with their child right away, having never been allowed to hold their boy and most days not knowing if he would make it through the night. Around 2 weeks of life, Katie helped this mother hold her baby for the first time. I was there that day and it felt like from that moment everything changed.

As that mother held her child, eyes welling up, I looked over at Katie. Her smile said it all, with tears forming in her eyes as well. Moving forward, Katie continued to fight for this patient, advocate for his parents, and coordinate his care so that the family was fully involved and their autonomy preserved. She would leave work after each shift, having left everything she had in the room with that tiny little life, and then come back the next day and do it all again. On a day that Katie had prepared for this father to hold his son for the first time, things took a turn for the worse. Mom and dad showed up, dad wearing a big smile and his button-down shirt just like Katie had told him to (to make skin-to-skin holding easier), only to find out that their child was deteriorating and needed to be transferred to the main children's hospital. The transfer happened swiftly, with barely time for goodbyes. I'll never forget the look on this mother and father's face as they asked Katie if after the brain scans they could come back to our NICU, to their nurse Katie whom they called by name and had learned to trust with their fragile child's life. We shook our heads, we all cried, and we said goodbye. I'm afraid my words here won't do justice to the absolute miracle I witnessed on the unit during this patient's stay.

A family, afraid to let themselves love their child, taken under the wing of an angel of a nurse and shown how to be parents to their fragile boy. Katie put her hands on theirs as she talked them through how to touch him and change his diaper and clean his face without causing his oxygen to drop or his heart to slow down. If it weren't for Katie I cringe to think about these experiences this family may have missed out on with their sweet baby. Because of her extraordinary nursing care, passionate advocacy and selfless compassion, I believe Katie is a true DAISY Nurse.