I'm a NICU nurse and it's my first job as a RN right out of school- here's my 2 cents worth:
- Buy a little book that you can fit in your scrub pocket. Fill it with info you learn on the job- your hospital's normal lab values, procedure guidelines, glucose check protocols (NPO, fluids/PO, PO only, etc), how much blood volume you need for specific lab tests (0.3 ml, 0.1 ml etc). Always have it with you when you're on the floor. I did this when I first started orientation and I still refer to it every shift. The inside of the back cover I wrote phone numbers we always use- Lab, Blood Bank, Pharmacy, etc.
- Volunteer to do/see everything when you're in orientation. You'll get a lot of extremely valuable experience, and you'll still have someone more experienced there with you to help guide you, give you pointers, etc. When you're on your own you may not have as many people willing to help.
- If your NICU doesn't provide you with a Neofax drug book, get one. Write your name allll over that puppy too!
This thing has saved our tails many times. It tells you about meds in specific regards to neonates. It's very detailed and tells you all about (in)compatibility, what types of lines they can go in, etc. It is truly a life saver.
- Find a nurse who's skills, personality, and bedside manner you admire and become friends with him/her. Ask to assist her with some of her tasks, talk to her about what has helped her in the NICU, go to her for advice. Make sure you also let her know how much you appreciate her. There'll be times when you need to rely heavily on your fellow coworkers.
- If you see another nurse struggling with her assignment, help her- they'll be more willing to do the same for you when you need it down the line. NICU is a family environment- both patient and staff wise. Our babies require a lot of care, more so than a lot of people realize. It can be very hectic and chaotic at times, especially when someone gets a critical admission or a baby crashes. It's these times when the support of your fellow nurses can really help make it organized chaos instead of a warzone.
-Take the time to thank people for helping you after something unexpected happens- a baby passes, an unplanned and intense admission, resuscing a baby, self extubation, etc. It can mean the world to staff, and really helps boost spirits.
- Parents/families can often be one of the biggest challenges (aside from the actual nursing care of the baby). They go through a huge array of emotions- which may become directed at you. It's an extremely stressful and trying time for them, sometimes I think we forget that. A simple hand on theirs, getting them a box of tissues, or a chair by their baby's isolette can make a huge difference in how they respond to you. It's the simple things we tend to crave most when we're going through hardships.
Sorry for such a long post, but I hope some of it helps. I truly love the NICU and all it's taught me. It is/can be a very stressful place to work, but also the most rewarding-imho. It's hilarious and heartwarming how excited we get when a former 23 weeker kicks us when we try change their diaper, or when a parent brings back a baby years later. If you have any other questions, want more advice, or just want to talk about the NICU/nursing, etc feel free to PM me.
best of luck!