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When a Primary Patient Goes Home

I have been a registered nurse for three years. I began my career in the NICU, and this is where I have worked ever since. I started primary nursing over the past year, and what a journey it has been. 

Throughout this year, eight perfect babies and their families have considered me “their nurse” while in the NICU. I hope these families know, I also consider them “my family.” There is a sense of responsibility in knowing that I am the primary teacher and advocate for “my family” while they are in the NICU, and this brings both happy and sad moments. You see your primary patients and families every time you work, you grow attached, you see these babies progress and reach milestones, and sneak in extra snuggle time whenever the hectic 12-hour shift permits. 

Of course, the obvious goal of being a primary nurse is to watch the family and baby you’ve grown so attached to walk out that door and start their new journey where they belong – at home. However, that joyous moment does not prevent the emptiness you feel when you return for your next shift to a new patient you have yet to meet, a family you have yet to bond with, and the reality of a new normal.

When my primary patients go home, so many emotions followed: 

  • Pride - Nothing feels better than knowing I played a role in this baby’s success and ability to go home.
  • Excitement - Keeping up with the baby and their families even after discharge is just as great as seeing them grow in the NICU.
  • Sadness - A huge piece of my heart at work is gone. Not only am I a consistency for families, the families and the babies become a consistency for me.
  • Honored - Knowing I make a difference for these families during a difficult time is why I’m so honored to do this job.

I never expected to love what I do more and more every day, but being a primary nurse in the NICU gives me an extra reason to want to come to work, and that has been a blessing to my career.

About Katherine Babb, BSN, RN

About Katherine  Babb, BSN, RN Katherine Babb (known as Katie) is a full-time registered nurse at CHKD in the NICU and has been since 2016. She is a member of the FAC and enjoys taking care of her primary patients when working her 12-hour shifts on the unit. During her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her friends, family, and her two fur babies, Bentley and Bella. She is currently enrolled in a master's program through Old Dominion University to become a pediatric nurse practitioner.