by Linda Friedel | Reprinted courtesy of KC Nursing News

Margaret Meyer, RN, BSN, director of the NICU at Overland Park Regional Medical Center, nominated Ashley Pratt, RN, for the hospital’s 2011 Rising Star award.

Pratt accepted the honor last month.

“She’s just an awesome nurse,” Meyer said. “If you had to mold a nurse into what you would want them to be, she has all of those qualities.”

Meyer said Pratt’s attitude sets her apart.

“She’s a go-getter,” Meyer said. “She’s always looking to help others. She’s passionate about what she does. She clearly wants to do things the right way.”

Pratt works at crib-side in the NICU and connects with patients’ parents. She also serves on the hospital’s transport team, spiriting troubled infants from smaller communities such as Iola, Pittsburg or Topeka, to larger specialty hospitals in Kansas City.

“We have basically a NICU on wheels,” she said. “We focus more on our safety (than speed.)”

Pratt said the majority of babies she cares for are newborns who are very sick. Every case is different, she said. Babies are transported to a variety of specialty hospitals throughout the metro area, depending on their medical needs at the time.

“The babies decide my day,” she said. “It kind of depends on how they’re doing.”

Pratt said she likes working with the fast-moving transport team and the dedicated staff in the NICU.

“You have to be smart, think quickly,” Pratt said. “It can be really fast-paced.”

Pratt cares for infants from 23 weeks gestation to term, working to help them thrive. She especially likes to engage with parents, counseling them, informing them, easing their burden, and letting them know their child is in good hands.

“We build a lot of relationships with the parents,” she said. “They’re part of the medical team. We want them to be involved in their baby’s care.”

Pratt said her days in the 71-bed unit range from business as usual to moments of high-level stress, with patients’ lives in the balance, counting on a team of technicians, nurses and physicians.

“The staff is amazing,” she said. “We have a lot of support. They’re great. They’re so qualified. They are very pas- sionate about what they’re doing.”

Pratt said she cannot see working anywhere other than the NICU. Growing up, she admired her aunt, an RN, who also cared for the community’s smallest patients.

“I used to go visit her at the hospital,” Pratt said. “A lot of her friends were in the NICU. She was also my hero.” Pratt said at the end of the day the babies and their families are the ones who make her hours count.

“I’m very passionate, very happy where I am,” she said. “Every day I’m reminded why I come to work.”