Meet SESLHD's unsung heroes: Our neonatal nurse practitioners

They work tirelessly to deliver around-the-clock care for our tiniest, most vulnerable patients, such as babies born at just 22 weeks gestation, no bigger than a tub of butter. Meet the unsung heroes of SESLHD: our neonatal nurse practitioners.

Sheeba Binoy and Michelle Currie​ are two neonatal nurse practitioners that make up a dream team of specialist medical, nursing and social work staff in the Royal Hospital for Women's Newborn Care Centre. Both Michelle and Sheeba have years of training and are armed with specialised knowledge and advanced skills which they use to care for the most critically ill babies in our health system.

"Working in the Newborn Care Centre can be very challenging because every day is different and I never know what will happen or what I will see," according to Ms Binoy.   

"One moment we could be examining big healthy babies and counselling their families prior to discharge and the next moment we're using our skills to intubate a premature baby who is struggling to breathe," Ms Currie​ said.  

Their role is quite unique as Michelle and Sheeba are the only two neonatal nurse practitioners at the hospital, and have the same responsibilities as senior neonatal medical registrars. The specialist staff work in tandem with the wider team to review each baby's needs in detail before making a care plan for the day ahead. Often they're present at deliveries, to support a baby who is in distress, before they're even born.   

They provide advice to community midwives and parents, assess babies on postnatal wards and even talk to expecting parents about what to expect at the time of birth. The pair also teach, mentor and participate in research and quality improvements projects.

"We get to be part of a family's unique experience. I feel so privileged to be able to support babies and their families through their journey. Our interactions and experience have the opportunity to make a difference to those that need us," Ms Currie​ said.

According to Ms Binoy it is a great pleasure witnessing the progress and improvements of each baby that comes through the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Whilst the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about new challenges, such as remaining extra vigilant when caring for at-risk newborns, the team are up for any challenge thrown their way. One of the major ways the pandemic has changed their unique role is that they have had to find new ways of engaging with families.

"Facial expressions and reassuring touch are communication tools we often use, particularly when dealing with families in distress. With social distancing and face masks I have had to adapt my approach. I still find it tricky at times. As healthcare professionals we have a lot of empathy for families and want to support and reassure them as best we can," Ms Currie​ said.
Both Ms Currie​ and Ms Binoy say it's the phenomenal teamwork that makes working in the Newborn Care Centre so special. "I feel valued as an integral part of the team," Ms Binoy said. "We operate as a cohesive team that acknowledge each other's experience and expertise. It's a really supportive environment, both for patients and staff."

"I feel very proud to be a part of The Royal. No matter the circumstance everyone pulls together to ensure the best care for every baby and family," Ms Currie​ said. "My team feels like my family. We laugh together, we cry together, and we look after each other. Where else can you say that about your workplace?"

Sheeba Binoy and Michelle Currie standing outside the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit