Floods and fires weren’t exactly part of the job description when Lynn Cheslock signed on as a NICU nurse at Akron Children’s Hospital back in 1983. Suffice it to say – she’s seen a lot during her 32 years.
With the move on May 5 to the much bigger NICU in our new Kay Jewelers Pavilion, Cheslock, a NICU clinical coordinator, has worked in 3 different NICU spaces during her tenure at Children’s.
“This expansion has been needed for a lot of years,” she said. “It’s been a long time coming.”
The census in the NICU can be unpredictable and sometimes the need arises for patient overflow on a different floor.
“The increase in beds from 59 to 75 should negate the need for an overflow space in the future,” Cheslock said.
So will the fact that premature babies no longer come to the NICU to convalesce as they did in the past.
“We don’t keep babies forever like we used to. We want them to go home as quickly as possible,” she said. “Home monitoring systems are much improved and we’re better able to educate parents and make them feel competent and comfortable caring for their baby’s needs at home.”
The evolution of medical equipment – with everything from catheter lines to blood pressure cuffs getting tinier – has translated into better outcomes for NICU patients.
“Looking back on the NICU monitors we used to use – they didn’t have blood pressure or pulse oximetry capabilities. Nurses really had to rely on their intuition,” Cheslock said. “We didn’t know that higher levels of oxygen caused blindness. Research studies about things like retinopathy of prematurity and the ability to titrate (continually measure and adjust) oxygen levels have led to fewer cases of blindness in preemies.”
With no computers or electronic medical records, everything was laboriously charted on paper.
Cheslock credits medications, like Surfactant, with fewer preemie deaths and ventilator-dependent babies.
“We’re able to get babies off ventilators more quickly now,” she said.
The number of neonatologists has more than tripled during Cheslock’s years in the NICU and she’s witnessed the growth of advanced practice nurses and neonatal nurse practitioners.
“Advanced practice nurses now take call more than the residents do,” Cheslock said.
Prenatal care and education mean that high-risk babies who had a slim chance of survival are now making it to the NICU for care. With an average daily census of 50, the demand for neonatal care is stronger than ever.
Focus on family
One of the changes Cheslock is most excited about is the en suite accommodations for parents and caregivers. In the past there wasn’t space for parents to sleep at their child’s bedside, but that has changed with the new Women’s Board of Children’s Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
“Each private room now has a bed for 1 parent or caregiver and a private bathroom,” Cheslock said. “We also have a parent lounge and lockers for caregivers who need a break.”
Cheslock has watched the culture change at Children’s over the years and loves the collaborative philosophy to which the hospital subscribes.
“There is an awareness that it’s OK to share best practices and evidenced-based care with other institutions,” she said. “Family-centered care is an important part of our culture and former parents and caregivers play an active role on many hospital committees and teams.”
After surviving the aforementioned floods and fire in her former space, Cheslock enjoys being flooded with something she hasn’t seen at work in a long time – natural light.
Having worked for 20 years on floors with no windows she’s pretty adamant that this is one perk she’s definitely excited about.
“Sometimes it’s the little things that make the biggest difference,” Cheslock said.
As part of our year-long anniversary celebration, we’re telling the story of Akron Children’s through the eyes of past and present employees, doctors, donors, volunteers and patient families. We encourage you to share your own memories and stories about us.
About Kathy Johnson
Kathy Johnson is a freelance writer, editor and public relations consultant with nearly 25 years of experience in the healthcare industry.