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Personal experience propels nurse who was a preemie

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Personal experience propels nurse who was a preemie

Mary Kate Smith, RN, cares for a baby in Floyd Medical Center’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. She now works with a nurse who cared for her when she was born at FMC 25 years ago. / Floyd Medical Center

Mary Kate Smith was born 25 years ago at Floyd Medical Center and spent nearly two weeks at the hospital before being released. That experience played a role in her return. She now serves as a nurse in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, which cares for the hospital’s tiniest patients.

She works alongside Jennifer Perry, a NICU nurse who cared for Mary Kate a quarter of a century ago. Smith said when she first arrived at work, Perry approached her.

“She recognized my name, and she asked ‘What’s your last name?’” Smith said. “I told her, and she told me she had taken care of me. At first, I didn’t believe her. I didn’t think she could remember 25 years ago. Now that I do what she does, I totally see that you can. These babies, even if you don’t have them for a long time, some of them do really make an imprint on your heart, and you always remember them.”

Floyd’s obstetrics program began in 1942, when the hospital first opened. Over the past 76 years, more than 150,000 babies have been born at Floyd Medical Center. Floyd’s Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit has provided care for premature and medically challenged newborns since the 1990s.

“I always tell parents, one of the most rewarding things is when babies start out very sick or very tiny, or both, and they are here with us for a long, long time and then they get to go home with their moms and dads,” Smith said. “That’s the most rewarding thing to me, I think, putting them in the car to go home with mom and dad,” Smith said.

Some of that may come from personal experience. Smith was six weeks early, needed a respirator to breathe and has mild cerebral palsy as a result of her early birth.

Floyd Medical Center’s success story in birthing babies continues today. The hospital has been named one of America’s Best Hospitals for obstetrics, according to the 2019 Women’s Choice Awards. The nationwide awards are aimed at helping women make smart health choices. The obstetrics award signifies that Floyd is in the top 17 percent (462) of 2,778 U.S. hospitals.

That distinction is based on:

♦ The percentage of patients reporting through the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey that they would definitely recommend the hospital

♦ Patient safety rankings based on 11 Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ measures of infection and complication rates

♦ Low rates of early elective deliveries, between 0-1 percent

♦ Level III neonatal intensive care designations to provide comprehensive care for the most complex and critically ill newborns.

♦ FMC’s NICU is a Level III facility and provides sustained life support and comprehensive care for infants born at any gestational age, birth weight or illness.

The staff has the capability of caring for up to 23 babies at a time. Floyd’s completely redesigned Level III NICU opened in November 2017. The remodeled space focuses on the specialized privacy, quality nursing and family experience needs of newborns and their families.

Everything in the unit is aimed at making the babies both comfortable and healthy, and technology plays a big role in even the beds. Babies sleep in what are called Giraffe OmniBeds, which cradle them from the time they enter the facility until they leave.

Generally, babies in the NICU can go home when they are able to breathe on their own, maintain their body temperature, nurse or feed from a bottle, gain weight consistently and are in stable condition.

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