This NICU Grows Its Own Nurses

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Nurses Lois Lavoie, RN, and Caitlyn Abbott, RN, recount the special circumstances that brought them together, not once, but twice.

As told by Lois Lavoie, RN

On a cold winter day in early December, Caitlyn Abbott was born at Northwestern Medical Center. Three weeks early, she was a big baby by NICU standards. However, she had a fever. Two days later, Caitlyn’s illness progressed. She was transported to UVM Children’s Hospital for further treatment.

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Caitlyn Abbott as a baby, pictured here with Carol Hardy, RN, one of our veteran NICU nurses.

Baby Caitlyn had an infection requiring surgery to repair a small hole in her intestines. Dr. Ken Sartorelli performed the surgery. Caitlyn remained in the NICU at the UVM Children’s Hospital for two weeks. During that time, Caitlyn and her family received support and comfort from the staff in the NICU.

Lois Lavoie, the nurse on the transport team, and other NICU staff cared for Caitlyn with kindness and compassion while she was hospitalized. Caitlyn’s parents, Tim and Sharyn, spent the Christmas holiday at home with their daughter Chelsea while staff in the NICU cared for their fragile baby. Caitlyn recovered and was discharged home to grow up on the family farm in northern Vermont.

Today, Caitlyn is a graduate of Virginia Tech where she received her undergraduate Bachelor of Science degree in Human Development. She then went to Marymount University for the accelerated Nursing Program, which she completed in 2018. She wanted to work in the NICU where she started her life as a small, fragile infant who needed this skilled, caring team to survive.

She was recently hired and joined the NICU team as a staff nurse. She is welcomed by other young nurses, as well as her caring transport nurse Lois and her primary nurse Carol who cared for her all those years ago. Lois, Carol and all the NICU staff will pass on their expertise to Caitlyn and the next generation of nurses working in this very special unit.

As told by Caitlyn Abbott, RN

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Caitlyn Abbott, RN, pictured outside the NICU with Lois Lavoie, RN, who was one of her primary nurses more than 20 years ago. Caitlyn, Lois and Carol now work side-by-side.

Ever since I can remember, when someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up my immediate response has been “NICU nurse.”

Even though I do not remember my experience in the NICU, the impact the nurses had on my family and still do to this day is apparent. For many years on Christmas Eve, we would visit the nurses who took care of me to thank them for saving my life and supporting my parents through one of the hardest things they would go through: having a critically ill child.

While visiting over the years, I saw the passion and pride the nurses had for their job and the tiny babies in their care. I knew it was something that I wanted to do and be that passionate about.

During my time in the NICU, the nurses consistently showed my parents the compassion and support worrying parents require. To this day, my family still talks about how much they appreciated the nurses who not only provided exceptional care for me, but were also there for them when they needed support.

I look forward to telling parents of future NICU babies my story to give them a sense of hope and be the support they need. I am very grateful that I was given the opportunity to start my nursing career in my dream job and hope to have the same impact on some of my patients’ lives the way they did on mine.

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