Hand to Hold's Official Blog: Written by Parents for Parents

NICU Nurses Good and Bad

I sometimes wonder if NICU nurses realize how huge of an impact they have on the parents’ NICU experience.  There does not have to be a lot of interaction between parents and nurses if it’s not encouraged by the parents, but even still the attitude, gentleness, and concern a nurse has for each baby is evident to the parents and can make or break every single visit to the NICU.

After a week or two in the NICU my sister told me I could choose a primary nurse to watch over my baby whenever they were on shift.  I decided to start taking note of each nurse so I could decide, after two or three experiences with them, if I wanted them to care for my baby more often.  Little did I know that there was little chance of me ever seeing the same nurse twice unless I requested a primary nurse.  Every single day I met someone new caring for my preemie and I had to readjust to their quirks and rules.  I hated it and it began to really be stressful to me.

Some nurses were rough with my baby, inconsiderate and unfeeling with me, and unhelpful.  These were the days when I sat in silence and fear beside my baby and prayed that my baby would feel my love for her.  These were days when I went home at night and cried because my baby was alone in a white and heartless world and I couldn’t do anything about it.  Bad nurses made NICU life unbearable.

On the other hand, there were good nurses as well.  These nurses were sensitive to my needs and concerns and were gentle and sweet with my baby.  I felt so much better leaving my baby in their hands when I went home at night and my visits to the NICU were comfortable.  I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for NICU nurses to be as gentle, patient, and understanding as possible to visiting parents!

Yes, I finally requested a few primary nurses and had more peace of mind in the predictability of my visits, and yes I requested that some nurses never be assigned to my baby again.  It was simply unbearable for every single day to be an emotional gamble.

For all you NICU nurses out there, don’t just go to work every day – you have the power to bless the lives of babies and parents!  And to all of you good nurses who cared for my preemie – Thank you a million times over.  Your service was a huge blessing to me and my baby.

Afton Mower About Afton Mower

After Mower (UT) lost her firstborn son at 21 weeks.  Her daughter was born a year and a half later at 27 weeks.  The NICU was overwhelming and isolating and it was through those two experiences she was led to found this social hub for parents to find the support they needed. Afton also gave birth to another daughter, born two days overdue after four months of strict bedrest. She believes it is a tender experience to hold a special baby in your arms when his spirit returns to his heavenly home, a miracle to watch tiny babies survive the risks of prematurity and a blessing to hold a healthy full-term baby after months of difficulty and sacrifices.


  1. We did not experience any NICU nurse that were not wonderful, caring and loving to both our baby and us. We did however experience a pediatric nurse that we did not like and were very happy that it was the night we had to sleep over and our last night there. In our hospital the baby moves up in the NICU, to having one nurse to themself, to having 2 nurses to a baby, then move to the other side where there can be up to 4 babies to a nurse and the nurse can be a LPN rather than an RN, then the baby moves to the pediatric unit and they spend one full day and night, and that night they have the parents sleep in with the baby. As I write this maybe it was two nights, I can’t remember now almost 5 years ago. But anyway, we did not like the nurse we had that night. We had family that for the first time could come and see the baby come, and she insisted on continuing to come into the room, she also insisted on telling us how to nurse and change diapers, as if that was not all gone over since birth. She was just very intrusive, and then whenever we did get the baby to sleep she would come in and wake her up. She made us feel uncomfortable, uneasy, and like she was watching over every move we made, even when we tried to take showers she was watching over us and not leaving the room. So you are right about how the nurses make you feel. I am glad we did not have that in the NICU.

  2. Urg I agree. The hospital my daughter was transferred to out of my town has the worst nurses. One of the nurses had to come in on her vacation and was P.Oed. She took it out on everyone. She wasn’t in the mood to talk. Well I didn’t leave the NICU for her whole shift because I was afraid she was going to hurt my daughter who was just 1 lb 13 … See Moreozs. The hospital that she was transferred back to in my home town was the best. I felt so at home and made life long friends with those nurses. They are all angels in that NICU.

  3. YES! I agree 100%….We had one nurse that worked with our mircopreemie for the 1st time 2 weeks before he came home after a 92 day stay in the NICU. She had me SO depressed by the time I left that day. Once we got back our primary nurses, I felt better. Wehn I walked in and our primary nurse was back I almost cried because I felt better with her … See Moreand knew knew my baby and would not just “tube him”. She tried to bottle feed him. You are told mixed information and this nurse didnt really even know my little fellow. Sometimes I wondered if some of those nurses even had a clue what I was going through. I am curious to see if everyone else feels the same.

  4. Marie – how old is your daughter now? My son was 1 lb 8 oz born 7/8/09 at 25 weeks. I have a ton of questions for other moms of micropreemie born around 25 weeks. It is so lonely because preemies as small as ours are so very different than full term babies and preemies that arent born as early.

  5. That was just one of the nurses. Another one told me my daughter will never look me in my eyes, and she will never be a “normal” baby. Well she looks me in the eyes every waking second of every day. She looks 100% “NORMAL” and is even advanced for her gestational age.

  6. I totally agree with that statement. My son is a mirco preemie (born at 24 weeks) and it was very important once I got to know nurses that I got my primary nurse without them I never felt 100% comfortable that my child was getting the best care. I think some Nurse do not understand we already have to leave are newborn everyday, let alone leaving them in care of a Nurse that is rude or mean or rough with our children. Thank God for primary nursing. It really helped my NICU experience.

  7. Angela- my daughter is 6 months old now. LOL she was born 8/8/09. Della was 26 weeks when she was born. It is a very different experience with a micropreemie.

  8. I totally agree… you never know what floats their boat… We spend 120 days in the NICU and I most say I was very lucky because our experience was not bad at all, but I know some nurses have that power of “breaking” your visititation.
    Sometimes if they do not have anything smart to say might as well don’t say anything… I have a 25 weeker as well a baby girl born on 10/3/09

  9. So true.we’ve has some of the best nurses and some of the worse.the great ones know kaydence name and all her likesand dislikes and in a room full of preemies she is not just another baby.they give there all.then we’ve had some that if i told all the horrible things they did or said u would think i made it up.their attitude can determine your day,good or bad.and u dont need negative energy around the babies

  10. wow…so glad someone wrote that. I actually had to turn a nurse in while we were there. The wait between shifts made a huge difference sometimes. You could feel the mood was just bad on some days and then great on others. Us moms are so raw and scared. One bad nurse can ruin your trust in the whole system. The nurse I turned in held my baby … See Moreup like a piece of ham and told me that it didn’t matter if I fed him or her, that he would never know the difference. Then she ran me out before I could breast feed. It had been hours and hours and so I had to go pump. I knew that I had the right to be there so I went and asked why she made me leave. It was awful. They told me that she should not have done that and that I could request she not take care of my baby again.I think she quit or got fired. Scary. On the other hand…most were unbelievably wonderful and cared for my baby as if he were the most precious thing in there.

  11. I am a mother of a preemie baby boy who was born at 7 months and who will also be turning 2 this month. I am really glad someone wrote this…I too had a bad experience with a few bad nurses, but also I have to say with some very gentle and caring ones too. You cant imagine how I felt leaving my son with the nurses that were not very nice 🙁 I … See Morecried every night I left the hospital. I slept very little because all I would think about was my baby. I would get up very early to rush over there to be by his side. I have always known Ive wanted to be a registered nurse, and now that I am pursuing that career, and the experience that I went through with my son, I’ve have decided that the NICU is where I want be. Not only do I want to be there to comfort and care for these preemies but also to comfort and reassure the parents that their little one is in good hands. That they can go home and rest, especially the mother whom in reality most of these women gave birth to these preemies and havent had much rest like how they need. A nurse does have a HUGE impact on this experience, and hopefully we will get more and more new gentle and caring NICU nurses for our babies.

  12. I had a perfect mix of the worst nurses and best all in the same hospital. I loved my oldest preemie’s night nurses. They would take photos of her for us when she was awake at night. And then we were allowed to just sit next to her while she slept as long as we wished.

    Now one of the morning nurses that filled in on holiday’s which happened to be… See More thanksgiving decided to take it upon her self to tear our heart apart on a holiday we truly felt thankful to God for sending us our child. She said “I don’t know why you care so much because this isn’t your child at all until you may or may not take her home. Until then she doesn’t belong to you.”

    Thankfully we had a kind doctor who felt that parents of NICU children deserved the best care and we never saw that nurse again. A year and a half later when our younger preemie daughter stayed at the same hospital we found that all the nurses took the same care and love for our daughter that the night nurses a year before did. The photos of our children during their waking hours and uplifting stories of their tiny accomplishments made our NICU experience a strengthening time in our lives.

    • brightred says:

      I am so sorry you had a nurse tell you that.
      I truly hope she was fired. No telling how she
      talked to the parents of other babies she took
      care of. Anytime anyone has a bad nurse or
      a bad doctor, please do not hesitate to contact
      that person’s supervisor and don’t stop until
      action has been taken. If you have to go higher
      up on the supervisor chain then do it. That behavior is totally unacceptable.

  13. I totally agree with that. I say that my son while in the ICU would react with better breathing when he had a good nurse.

  14. i totally agree- i had some nurses that almost had me in tears while i was in the nicu because they were pushing their ideas, feelings, and thoughts on how things should be and how many times a day i needed to be there- while working a 40 hr week while my daughter being in the hospital i did the best that i could- apparently some of them thought it wasn’t good enough, 3-4 times a day while working was the best that i could do. but then i had a few nurses that were the best ever!

  15. Totally, i agree!

  16. My baby girl was born at 23 weeks and 5 days, we are 9 weeks into our long stay and i struggle everyday with all the different personalitlies and the way the nurses do things, we are in a major hospital and i get different nurses all the time so you can never get use to the same nurse. I go home drained often because you are told one thing and how … See Moreto do something and then next time you do it you get told that its the wrong way because you have a different nurse. Some days i leave the hospital worried because i have a nurse that doesnt seem very attentive and will ignore alarms or the nurses and i didnt see eye to eye eg. because i think she is hot and ask her to check my babies temp and they might get stroppy because they think you are telling them how to do their job, and you just dont know if you should say something or just hope that when i leave they do their job. Its such a worring, mentally draining time.

  17. Janel Hulbert says:

    Thank you for posting this. I wasn’t sure if this was just our experience or if everyone felt this way.

    You already have so much emotional stress when you baby is in the NICU and grouchy nurses don’t help out the whole situation.

  18. Petit Sourice says:

    Agreed. However 90% of the nurses in my NICU were rotten. Had to sleep in the lobby of the hospital because didn’t want to leave the baby in their hands. Also, not all NICUs let you pick a primary nurse (we got luck of the draw) and not all NICUs let you even get 2nd opinions on medical decisions (ours did not allow us to choose a neonatologist as this was our 2nd experience in this NICU and we were lied to by the head of it last time). But… he still gets to treat teh baby and we can’t do anything about it.

  19. Wendi Keller says:

    Please understand that the vast majority of NBICU nurses love their jobs, the babies and the families… But we are just people too – not perfect. We truly do try and meet the needs of each and every family but at times fail as each family is so different. Something that I think is encouraging, they may find offensive or hurtful… But we are always learning and growing to be the BEST nurses to babies AND families! #babylover

  20. Im a NICU nurse. We do our best to manage time among 3 to 4 babies. Sometimes we have to prioritize care. If the baby is awake and has poopy diaper, I understand that it is uncomfortable. However, a baby having issues with breathing is more important. Instead of complaining, why not help us and change the diaper instead.

  21. I know this is an old post it’s been a year since our nicu experience and it’s still traumatic. I had some really great nurses docs that took great care of my daughter. however often times it’s seemed like they forgot that I had just had a c-section and a baby 10.5 weeks before I was prepared to. also that that baby was 1 pound at birth and that looking at that child was breath taking it was also terrifying and I had felt like I had failed that I and my body were to blame.it didn’t help when I had a nurse tell me that I didn’t try to stay healthy during my pregnancy and that that’s why I got pre e(even though I had it with my first child also) though she never took care of new during pregnancy.it was very hard to go to the nicu on a good day but feeling like everyone thought it was my fault didn’t make it much easier. I was severely depressed and had trouble just getting out of bed I wanted to die! So when our social worker called scheduled a meeting where she yelled at me and told me I needed to be in to visit my child at least 3 times a day I felt even more like I was a failure and like they were going to try to take my child away.this was 2 months into our experience we only had about 3 weeks left.i told the social worker that I was trying my best abs she told me it wasn’t enough. I explained to the doc that I wasn’t going to abandon my child and they said that they were just concerned that I wouldn’t be able to care for my child(that is not the conversation the social worker and I had).my daughter had no health problems she was just a grower and feeder.we finally escaped that place and I have managed to keep my daughter alive(shocker!!!) while she has grown and thrived.she is now 17 months 24 inches and close to 20 pounds.smart beautiful and healthy.I am not in any way ragging on nicu nurses I know it is a hard job and I appreciate everything that they did for us and my daughter. but on the other hand they chose that field and they go home with a pay check. I didn’t choose to have a child that had to fight to live.no one would ever choose to have that experience it’s still traumatic for me and my husband. so thankyou to all the kind nicu nurses that do amazing jobs at supporting parents and patients! I wish we had had a better team and it had been a more positive experience but I am thankful and lucky to have my daughter!

  22. I want to thank you so much for this article.

  23. Tam Garrison says:

    I came across this email as I laid in bed thinking about my premature baby in NICU. Leaving him there is SO hard (I cry every time I have to go home). Since I’m off, I wake up in the mirning and rush to be by his side. I stay there all day until I have to go home and tend to my other children. I feel so bad, but I know I still have to take care of my other kids. I sit and think NONSTOP about how my premature baby is being cared for. Last night I was NOT impressed with the night shift nurse. She was throwing things and bring rough. Mom is a Nurse, so I’m certainly not against nurses at all. But what I am telling any nurse that is reading this is that the parents are emotionally and physically drained. All we want is comfort knowing that our baby will be well taken care of and loved. If you can’t effectively and genuinely do this, please do not be a NICU nurse. We put our trust and precious child in your hands! For those NICU nurses that are mean to those sweet babies, shame on you. I pray that my baby will soon be able/ready to come come, be healthy, no complications, and fully developed. I’m so hurt and lost with this experience. May God watch over, protect, and bless our babies!


  1. […] Preemie Babies 101 has a great article written by a mom discussing her experience with primary nurses. Check it out! […]

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