It was 7 in the morning, and the lights were still low in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). The babies were stirring, and it was time for the handoff, the first of the day’s rituals.
Walking from crib to crib, the tired-looking doctors from the previous night’s shift were bringing the daytime team up to speed on each child, summarizing from handwritten notes a dozen-plus variables about each baby into a single picture: This is how ill, or well, the child before you is at the moment.
I cover research in Boston Children’s Hospital’s Division of Newborn Medicine, which runs the NICU. I spend more time in laboratories than in clinics. To better understand the questions that the doctors and nurses I work with are trying to answer, I wanted to see what they see every day as they care for some of our littlest patients.
The division’s Donna Brezinski, MD, kindly offered to let me tag along with her for a day “on service,” giving me a chance to take part in the rituals of communication and care, like the handoff, that underlie the NICU’s work. …