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YON 2020 Day 252: Julie Gamary, MSN, RNC-MNN, and Denise Speer, MSN, RN

At the Cleveland Clinic Fairview Hospital, Julie Gamary, MSN, RNC-MNN, is Manager of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), and Denise Speer, MSN, RN, is Director of Women’s and Children’s Services. In this story, Julie Gamary reflects on the influence of her Director’s words on her work and the impact the pandemic has had in the NICU.

Pictured: Julie Gamary, right, and Denise Speer.


Many of us have commented on how ironic it is that the Year of the Nurse turned out to be the Year of the COVID pandemic. Never did we think that we would be facing such a monumental health crisis in our nursing careers. After all, that is just something we read about in nursing school. After 19 years as a mother/baby nurse, I transitioned to the neonatal ICU about a year ago when I accepted the position of Nurse Manager. I navigated my way through learning the ropes of the NICU. As I encountered various situations, my director, Denise Speer, told me many times, “This is probably one of the hardest things you will ever do.”

During my first few months in NICU, there were many days full of miracles, but when I encountered a difficult loss, I heard those words from my leader--this is one of the hardest things you will ever do.

When all of our lives turned upside down due to COVID, I turned that statement back to Denise by asking, “Is this the hardest thing I will ever do?” To me, yes it was. My job has always been to keep the babies safe, but now it means turning away some very important visitors so that our NICU remains a safe haven for babies to grow and thrive. Many days were spent with only one parent at the bedside. Sending a parent away, yes, this was the hardest thing I have ever had to do.

Then, there were days where I explained to COVID positive moms that they were not allowed to come to the NICU at all for weeks. Telling a mom that she cannot see her baby so that we can keep our safe haven, yes this is the hardest thing I have had to do! I am one of the many NICU nurses who have worked hard to keep our tiniest of patients safe in unprecedented times. We have learned to include family members in the care of their baby through a virtual world for the last several months. While this is the hardest thing I have had to do, the pandemic has taught me that I am most proud to be a NICU nurse.

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