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After suffering a pregnancy loss, Ashley Ritsema, neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) nurse at IU Health North Hospital, left her job as a kindergarten teacher and went back to school for nursing. During nursing school, Ritsema had two babies, both born premature. After experiencing what it was like to be a parent with children in the NICU, Ritsema knew the NICU was where she wanted to be.
By Trudy Odenwald, Marketing Associate, IU Health Indianapolis Suburban Region, todenwald@IUHealth.orgBefore becoming a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) nurse at IU Health North Hospital, Ashley Ritsema was a kindergarten teacher. While teaching, Ritsema and her husband experienced a pregnancy loss.
“We had such great nurses and that’s what really pushed me to leave teaching and go back to school for nursing,” Ritsema said.
During nursing school, Ritsema had two babies, both born premature. After experiencing what it was like to be a parent with children in the NICU, Ritsema knew the NICU was where she wanted to be. Ritsema’s personal journey allows her to connect with families and provide comfort letting them know she has been where they’re standing. Her hope is to provide families with the type of care that she received when her children were in the NICU.
When asked what her favorite parts about her job are, Ritsema said it’s seeing the babies from start to finish and building relationships with families.
“I get as excited as the parents do when their baby is able to go home,” Ritsema said. “You’ve been watching that baby grow and develop, and for them to finally be able to go home is really exciting and special. There are some families that are here for quite a while, and I enjoy those relationships that are made during their baby’s stay.”
Every time a family reaches back out and tells Ritsema how much her care meant to them and how positive their experience was because of her, she’s reminded why she loves what she does so much.
Having been in her position at IU Health North for almost two years, Ritsema knows caring for the parents is just as important as caring for the babies. It’s hard to have a baby in the NICU under normal circumstances, and a global pandemic creates even more challenges for families.
“It’s important to show even more empathy, love and support and let the parents know that I’m here to help them as much as I’m here to help their baby,” Ritsema said.