by Linda Friedel | Reprinted courtesy of KC Nursing News

Emily Sack has a knack with babies. In her youth she nannied, volunteered in labor and delivery and rocked babies in a daycare infant room.

“There is something about them that’s just special,” said Sack, RN, BSN and staff nurse in the NICU at Overland Park Regional Medical Center (OPRMC). “They are so fresh to the world. I just know I like them.”

Sack was a scrub technician and patient care technician in labor and delivery at Lawrence Memorial Hospital while interning at OPRMC’s NICU during nursing school to get a sense of direction, she said. By the time she graduated, she knew. Sack has been in the NICU at OPRMC for five years since starting there as an intern. She enjoys caring for infants of all ages in the NICU, she said. Some of her patients are there on a short-term basis while others stay for months. It is a specialty where families bond with staff members and form long-term relationships, she said.

“There are so many happy stories,” Sack said. “We get to see them grow up.”

Families later return with their thriving infants, she said. They come back to the NICU to visit with the staff or catch up with one another at the annual NICU reunion. That is her reward, she said. Sack especially appreciates the team spirit on the unit. Everyone from administrative assistants nurses, to physicians are on hand to support one another any time the need arises, she said.

“It’s definitely one big team,” Sack said. “Everybody pitches in and helps as needed. You don’t even need to talk. There are four people there ready to help.”

Sack said a big part of being in the NICU is advocating for patients who don’t have a voice. It is important to respect the family’s wishes, she said, to be there to support them. Nurses must advocate for the baby and do what they think they need in the interest of comfort and pain control, Sack said.

“We are around them all day so sometimes we notice changes or behaviors that the physicians might not notice,” she said. “It is a hard balance but we must advocate for our tiny patients.”

In addition to caring at bedside, Sack serves on several committees to promote best practices and affect policy. She is a member of the Developmental Care Committee and the Feeding Committee, both of which are multi-disciplinary initiatives, she said.

“I like to see things change to make sure that we are doing the best things we can for the babies,” Sack said. “It’s the best way to make change.”

Sack finished her BSN in May of 2012, and is back in school earning her masters in public health degree. She said she is interested in continuing to make a difference in policy and education.

“She is always is professional in how she acts, no matter how difficult the situation is,” said Margaret Meier, RN, BSN, MSL and director of the NICU. “She’s very compassionate and understanding. She’s just got the qualities of an exceptional nurse.”

Sack is great about spending time educating parents, Meier said, so they feel comfortable with whatever is going on with their baby at that time.

“It can be very scary for parents,” Meier said. “She has the ability to make them comfortable. She’s very calming, professional, warm. And parents love her.”