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How do neonatal surgeons cope with the death of infants so often?

I am interested in neonatal nursing but am afraid I will not be able to handle when they don’t make it. Any ways to cope? #science #nursing

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Jamie’s Answer

Hi Bailey, that is a very specific goal you have in mind and a great fear to have if considering this line of work. First I would ask why you are interested in this profession. Is it because you want to help children who are sick and you love babies, because you had a neonatal surgery performed on you when you were in womb or know someone who did, or do you love researching neonatal diseases and complications and want to fix them through surgery? Here is what I would suggest. If you chose answer number 1, I would look at all professions related to children and those that may have less death involved. While it is not less death, it may be more prolonged death and more indirect death as you are not responsible for helping ensure they live from a surgery, check out a child life therapist. All to often people who love kids and want to help them especially if they are sick, choose medicine.....hmmmmm.....that was me! I wanted to be a doctor since I was in second grade, but then I realized I just wanted to help people, and it was not through medicine. I see you hash-tagged science so I assume you do have an interest in science and health. Spend some time looking at your browser history online, how often do you go to Neuronatal related searches and read just for fun? If not much yet, do.......go read academic journals about all the Neuronatal disease and complications where surgery is needed. I envision it is very tough......and emotionally draining, so I would also read some of the blogs of parents who have lost children in Neuronatal surgeries and google blogs of neuronatal surgeons too, For example I found this one. maybe reach out to her as well. http://www.theportlandhospital.com/blog/the-portland-hospitals-consultant-diaries-miss-kate-cross-consultant-paediatric-and-neonatal-surgeon/ . Here are 50 of them to also look at, lots of variety.

http://www.nursingdegree.net/blog/54/50-best-blogs-for-neonatal-nurses/

I think it is important to also think about what you believe happens when a child dies. Do they go to heaven? How would you comfort a family or tell a family their child passed? You will take classes on this.........but I suggest you try to take one now as a high schooler. There is a website called coursera. See if you can find a class on death and dying and try it out for free. They are real college classes. Also you can go to a college book store of a college that has a medical school and probably browse the book store and find some great books on death and dying. I also found this which may be helpful

http://bulletin.facs.org/2015/02/patient-loss-surgeons-describe-how-they-cope/


Going back to my initial question, how did you choose this?


Make sure you actually have an interet in SURGERY....and not just helping in general with something related to health or kids or both. For example what does helping look like to you? Informing a mom of how to eat healthy so when her baby is born it is healthy? Teaching a new mom to breadfeed her baby? Helping prevent HIV infections in newborns by doing HIV education in high risk populations? Making sure children are safe and have all their needs met? Helping abandoned babies get adopted? Working with researchers to study brain development of children in the womb and the impact violence has on them? Making baby toys that are educational? Studying the impact of classical music on babies? Developing a new swaddle for kangaroo care? Running a volunteer program of elderly volunteers to rock babies in intensive care? Drawing tattos of baby feet prints for new moms and dads? Being a baby photographer in the hospital? Developing a new baby food? Fundraising for a charity to support newborns who have been put up for adoption or whose mothers are victims of sex trafficking or in jail? Working with women who have post pardum? The list goes on and on and on. So once you decide if it is medicine, health, babies, surgery, mothers, helping, etc.......and you can determine if you are on the right path for neuronatal surgeon or if you are off track and if off track, maybe you don't have to worry about the death and dying piece after all. Hope this helps some.




Jamie recommends the following next steps:

Think about why you chose this career
Read All you can About Death and Dying
Explore Career Options with Children or Health in General
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Kara’s Answer

I think that people who work in medicine care very deeply about their patients.

I worked in the NICU and we were ready to discharge a baby who had been bone with her intestines on the outside of her abdomen.

She had surgery right away and was doing very well. I had just taught her parents how to bathe her the day before.

When I came in, I saw the surgeon and knew something was wrong. She got very sick with NEC and they took her to surgery and by then she had no viable intestines left.

That was 30 years ago. I still can remember those feeling of shock, disbelief and sadness. The mom wouldn’t hold the baby, she waited outside the door while I stayed with the dad and the baby.

He spoke to her about all the fun things he planned for her: trips to Disney World, teaching her to play ball, etc. while he rocked her. She died in his arms.

He was 18 and gave up a football scholarship to get married and raise the baby. She was so loved while she was here.

I cried with the dad, and my coworkers cried with me and supported me. We help so many babies have their best shot at life. We help families take care of those babies.

I know for me, that I am there to use my skills to do my best job, but ultimately their fate is note decided by me. Their struggle would have been too great or it wasn’t their time.

It is really okay to be sad. That surgeon who I found kind of defeated in the beak room who just shook his head at me, had a very bad day. He had hoped he could have done something, but he too knew it was out of his hands.

You are still very young and there is a lot of school ahead of you before deciding what you want to do. Don’t be afraid of not being perfect, no one is. In medicine not everyone can be saved but you can help the parents.

Keep off your grades because that opens all of the doors. Follow the advice left before me and get exposed to as much as you can. You may love your job so much that you think all of the good days outweigh the bad.

Best of luck. NICU was my favorite job. I worked at Yale- New Haven Hospital for 5 years.
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