Mother-Daughter NICU Nurses Inspire One Another

Lori and Ellie, mother and daughter in front of The Dale & Karen Steel Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

On the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Brenner Children’s Hospital, Lori and Ellie Essick share a special bond. They are not only nursing teammates but also mother and daughter.

Lori is a seasoned nurse with 30 years of experience, while her daughter Ellie is a relatively new nurse with two years of experience in the NICU. Both live in the Clemmons, N.C., area, so when they work the same shift, they commute together.

“It’s hard to reinvent yourself in a career that you’ve had for 30 years,” Lori said. “But since I started working with Ellie, I see the NICU through young, hopeful eyes—my daughter’s eyes. I could not be prouder of the nurse she is and the nurse she will continue to blossom into.”

Ellie said she decided to become a NICU nurse because it was one of her only clinicals as a nursing student where she wasn’t watching the clock. “I love working with babies, and I love advocating for those who can’t speak for themselves.”

Working with her mom has inspired Ellie. “I can talk to her about anything, and she understands what I’m going through,” she said. “I’m proud of her, and she’s amazing at what she does. I learn from her every day.”

Both said nursing in the NICU has been a rewarding profession for them. “You get to be a part of someone else’s best day all the time,” Lori said. “In the NICU, there are so many firsts—the first time a parent gets to see or hold their baby, and the first time a baby breathes on its own.”

Working in the NICU is also being with a parent on their worst day. “Often you find that parents just appreciate a listening ear,” Lori said. “You can’t say ‘I understand.’ But you can listen and offer a shoulder to cry on.”

Emotional support is part of the job of being a bedside nurse, Lori said. “I think bedside nurses are really the only medical professionals who have the unique privilege to provide medical, physical and emotional care for patients. I look at us as the gatekeepers—the protectors of the babies and their families.”

“We also spend the majority of our time on the job with our patients,” Ellie said. “We are the ones that other medical professionals look to for answering questions about the patient.”

Parents rely on bedside nurses to speak for their children, Lori said. “One mom said, ‘I knew it would be OK because you would be my baby’s voice.’ This is a unique patient population who cannot speak for themselves. It’s an honor and a privilege to be their voice.”