Working in Akron Children’s neonatal intensive care unit might appear to be a difficult job, but for registered nurse Rita Vitale, it’s the perfect fit.
“Seeing a baby gain weight, seeing the parents’ satisfaction; it lets me know I’ve had a successful day,” said Vitale, who has worked at Akron Children’s Hospital for 25 years.
She spends a lot of her days educating new nurses and parents.
“I love working with babies who tend to require more advanced care, such as trachs and g-tubes,” Vitale said. “I feel that I’m a good teacher. I can work with parents on how to care for their child’s medical needs when they are at home. Getting a baby into a parent’s arms, and helping those parents build their confidence is very rewarding.”
Champion for parental involvement
Vitale learned early on in her career that forming a relationship with her patients’ parents is vital to the baby’s health.
“Caring for the baby is a partnership between caregivers and parents while in the NICU,” she said. “Everyone has the same goal – to get the baby healthy and home. If you work together, the chance of success is greater.”
Vitale has found a technique to help increase those chances – infant massage. A licensed massage therapist, Vitale works with parents to teach them this special skill.
“The massages put the parents and baby together in a positive touch,” she said. “It enhances weight gain, as well as sleeping and eating habits, and ultimately helps the babies go home sooner. It also helps prevent child abuse, increases bonding and decreases new-parent stress.”
While Vitale goes to great lengths to care for these tiny newborns, she also works tirelessly behind the scenes to keep the NICU safe.
As the NICU safety coach, she fosters safe practices among her co-workers and strives to prevent and correct potentially dangerous practices.
“I find myself not constantly correcting, but using positive reinforcement daily,” Vitale said. “My co-workers make me proud every day. They are perfect examples of safety and high reliability.”
Faces of Care Award
Vitale’s actions have not gone unnoticed. This summer, she was the recipient of the hospital’s Faces of Care Award.
Nominated by her co-worker, Amanda Ellis, RN, the award recognizes Vitale for her caring attitude and the grace in which she handles every situation.
“She treats both parent and baby with the utmost care and respect, offering the benefit of her 25 years of NICU experience, combined with a calming influence,” said Ellis in her nomination. “Parents in the NICU have been known to comment on Rita’s diligence and attentiveness to the babies. Parents often fall into easy conversation with her, asking for further education. She is a perfect model for nurses working alongside her every day.”
While Vitale knew about the nomination, she is grateful.
“I didn’t get into nursing for the perks, but it is nice to be recognized,” she said. “I work with the crème of the crop, the finest people. It is an honor.”