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Virginia NICU nurse: Job highlight is seeing 'families grow and blossom'

'You may be on top of the world and thinking that the baby [is] ready to go home and everybody's excited. And then the next day, the baby's taking a turn for the worse'
Nurse St. Julien
Nurse St. Julien works with NICU patient
Posted at 7:59 AM, May 13, 2023

NORFOLK, Va. — It’s National Nurses Week: a time to celebrate, honor, and appreciate our health care heroes. From assisting in emergency situations to helping our most vulnerable, nurses are usually the first point of contact for most patients.

Jonathan St. Julien, a NICU nurse at Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters (CHKD) in Norfolk, said the long hours, sacrifice and hard work are all worth it.

“I just love babies. Doesn't matter the size. I just always have liked working with babies,” said St. Julien.

St. Julien works with some of the tiniest of patients at CHKD.

“Oh, they come out with personalities,” St. Julien explained.

Nurse St. Julien
Nurse St. Julien takes care of one of his patients at CHKD

He says his 12-hour workdays go by quickly after working with some of the most fragile patients in his care.

“As level four, we deal with very sick babies to babies that are transitioning to going home,” he said.

Day in and day out, as a NICU nurse, he provides care to newborns who might need a little extra support. This includes assisting babies born prematurely to helping those with surgical needs.

“Some days, you may be on top of the world and thinking that the baby [is] ready to go home and everybody's excited," he said. "And then the next day, you know, the baby's taking a turn for the worse. So, it’s an emotional roller coaster that I would say you're on and it’s just tough.”

Even though they may come into the NICU as newborns, some of them can be there for months. However, no matter how long a baby's stay is, nurse St. Julien is there with them every step of the way.

“My favorite part of the day is seeing the babies being discharged and seeing how the baby has grown from being 400 grams up to now, you know, 4,000 or 5,000 grams. So that's pretty awesome to see," he said.

Nurse St. Julien works with NICU patient
Nurse St. Julien works with NICU patient

“The nurses here are absolutely amazing,” said Molly Fitzpatrick. “They are a godsend.”

Fitzpatrick is the mother of 3-and-a-half-month-old Noelle, a baby who is currently in the NICU. So far, Noelle’s whole life has been spent there.

“It’s been a very hard journey,” Fitzpatrick said. “We didn't know that she was going to be in the NICU. Everything throughout [the] pregnancy was healthy and good.”

Fitzpatrick said she was scared, but the nurses made sure she knew her daughter was taken care of with just as much compassion and love as she would give.

“It’s funny, because, you know, we like dream of discharge and stuff. But there is a little part of me that's like, 'What am I going to do?' I'm going to miss them when I leave,” said Fitzpatrick. “And I just always want to be able to tell Noelle about them.”

St. Julien says helping patients along the way, from when they give birth to the moment they're discharged, is a rewarding part of the job.

“It means everything. This is why we do what we do," St. Julien said. "To see the families grow and blossom, it’s just a wonderful thing. It's really wonderful to see them grow and go on.”

Nurse St. Julien recently graduated as a nurse practitioner, and he says he’ll continue to work in the NICU. He'll be working in a different capacity, but he'll continue to make a difference by delivering the best care possible to each and every patient.

“I love the job. It's the greatest, I can't complain,” he told us. “I don't even think that we, as nurses, really want to have a pat on the back. We just do our job. Because we want to do it and we love doing it.”

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