In her almost 20 years as a nurse, Shanea Beavers, RN, has cared for parents and babies in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Caring for newborns brings her joy, but over the last year, it's also brought challenges and fear.
"I personally do live in fear of COVID. Not because I'm afraid I'll get it, but because I'm afraid I'll spread it to one of the preemie babies I care for or a healing mother," wrote Beavers in a Facebook post.
Beavers started at IU Health Bloomington in 2005. She moved out of state in 2018 and returned to the hospital last year during the COVID-19 pandemic. For the last ten years, she has worked as a PRN nurse or "pro re nata," which means "as the situation demands," or "as needed." She primarily works in the NICU but fills other roles in OB/GYN.
"If labor and delivery needs help or pediatrics or postpartum, I just fill in the gaps there for everyone," said Beavers.
Working on-call has helped Beavers balance her home life with three children, and this year it's helped her colleagues, unlike before.
"If I pick up four hours here and there, I'm helping one of my full-time colleagues who's needing a break. And that's been much needed during COVID," added Beavers. "The amount of stress that everyone is under; we definitely feel that."
Through the pandemic, Beavers has been vocal on social media, advocating for the COVID-19 vaccine, masks, and social distancing. She also takes as many precautions as she can when off the job.
"I'm not doing this just for myself, but for the patient population that I take care of because they're very vulnerable," she said. "Preemies are already born with a compromised immune system which makes them susceptible to anything and everything."
As a NICU nurse, Beavers monitors infants after birth and supports families through their hospital stay. It's the same support her parents received when she was born prematurely at twenty-four or twenty-six weeks.
"That was a long time ago, so the survival rate was really low; it was kind of a big deal," she said. "My parents would take me every so often—like, five, ten-year birthdays—to visit the nurses who cared for me at Riley. So, I kind of always knew that this was the direction I wanted to head in."
Beavers knew from an early age she would be an advocate for these tiny babies. In this pandemic, she hopes more people realize they can play a role in the fight against the virus, no matter how small it feels.
“Even if you're not a healthcare worker, you can still be an advocate; there are things that you can do to encourage others to get vaccinated, mask up, and try to flatten the curve."