Touching Lives

By Matt Hawkins
June 12, 2015

Nursing major Lauren Tash ’16, of Atlanta, Georgia, traded late nights of homework for a summer of long days and nights in the neonatal intensive care unit at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

“I have always been passionate about children and helping others, so working in the NICU has given me the opportunity to provide nursing care and make a difference in many lives,” she said of the internship. “It’s a special feeling to help these children and their families and to see the positive impact you have on someone. This experience has made me even more excited to become a nurse.”

Tash is learning basic care procedures and is assisting with family education at the hospital, which is nationally recognized by publications such as U.S.News & World Report. By summer’s end, she will be proficient in patient assessment, daily care and a number of nursing care procedures.                    

She’s learning under the watchful eyes of several mentors, commonly called preceptors in nursing circles. Those relationships are producing growth just a few weeks into the experience.

“They push me to do things on my own and to ask for help when I need it, and those challenges are allowing me to make the most of the internship,” Tash said. “Nurses provide valuable feedback that helps me develop skills I’ll need for the future.” 

The grind of 12-hour shifts, including nights, is a welcome challenge as it prepares her for the rigors of the professional world. Tash is being exposed to infants with a wide range of medical concerns. The experience has opened her eyes to the realities of life’s fragility and her role in supporting young life. 

“I’ve been surprised by all the different conditions the kids have, and I especially didn’t realize how small a baby could be and still maintain life,” she said. “Whether the child is a 600-gram (21 ounce) preemie or a full-term baby, the child can encounter numerous life-threatening conditions. Being here has made me learn to not take anything for granted.”

Tash credits the NICU experience for a confidence boost in her patient care abilities. That, in addition to skills refined on the job, will be valued this fall when she works with patients during her clinical rotations in Peoria.

“I’ll be caring for multiple patients with little guidance, so I feel better prepared for that challenge,” she said. “I’ll have the critical thinking and other skills needed to provide the best possible care.”