Thanks and Giving at North Shore Medical Center's Birthplace
Holiday marks a day of thanks and year-long gratitude for a dedicated staff.
While many North Shore residents were up at dawn starting their Thanksgiving Day preparations Thursday, the nurses and aides at North Shore Medical Center (NSMC) Birthplace were already up and about, checking their patients… some just a few hours old.
Hospitals, like firehouses and police stations, continue to function through the holiday season. They are the community services that do not sleep.
"When you first go to nursing school, you just don't realize the commitment is 365 days a year" says Marta Kane, an RN at NSMC Birthplace. "But we turn it into a positive. People you work with become your 'adoptive family'. During holidays we do a potluck, a Secret Santa… It's busy but fun!"
Michelle Capello, a nurse with 30 years of experience, knows a little about working holidays. She has worked many of them since beginning her career. She shares: "Working a holiday is like volunteering… It's what we do to give back. To help someone's baby enter the world, what better way to celebrate?"
NSMC Birthplace follows the modern methodology of an "environment of healing", keeping mother and baby together for the first 48 hours, a crucial bonding period. The staff is touched by the outpouring from patients and their families, especially during the holidays. "It's not uncommon to see Dad's running out to bring us a 'box of Joe', families bringing us all sorts of treats – the break room is full!" says Michelle. She adds with a wink: "I don't have to cook that day!"
The staff works together to help other staff members who have children. "You have to understand — their kids are our kids. It's like an extended family."
Regan Crowley, a nurse and midwife at the Birthplace, shares: "I remember my first Thanksgiving on the East Coast. I came from Arizona, didn't know anyone and missed my family" she says. "It was so warm — people brought all this food — so many great people, I really enjoyed it!"
Lisa Cavallaro, RN and Manager of the NSMC Birthplace, remembers one Thanksgiving in particular.
"I was working the 3 to 11 p.m. shift. There was a woman who had given birth. She was in Room 454. She was homeless," Lisa said. "She told me she was happy to be here as she didn't have family and would have had no one to have Thanksgiving with. We brought her into the kitchen, she sat down and had a meal and celebrated with all of us. She was so appreciative, she gave each of us a spiritual 'medal' as a thank you. I'll never forget it."
Lisa has also learned to staff "heavy" the night of Thanksgiving and the next day. "The overeating tends to bring on all sorts of things, and we see many babies born around that time." Says Lisa with a smile: "Instead of shopping on Black Friday, many patients are laboring!"
Many times patient's families can't visit or can only visit for a short time. Simply sitting with patients comforts them.
Constance Lewis, RNC, who works in the Birthplace Neonatal unit, said "it can be somewhat sad in special care nursery."
"The nurses try to keep it upbeat. On holidays, we make blankets to give them. We love to put the babies in stockings and take pictures on Christmas; and, of course, make baby hats for the New Year. We try to support the parents any way we can," she said.
NSMC provides a traditional Thanksgiving meal with all the fixings to their patients and staff who are working on Thanksgiving Day. NSMC hosts the only 24/7 Pediatric Emergency Room on the North Shore, which is staffed by MassGeneral for Children pediatricians. NSMC annually sees over 680,000 visits per year, with over 90,000 emergency room visits and over 1,600 births.
Maria Azevedo, a Unit Service Aide in the Birthplace, shares her commitment. With over 30 years of experience, she is the eldest member of the family at the Birthplace. Her eyes water as she speaks about her work and colleagues.
"Working here is a privilege. I work with the best of the best. You hear the baby cry – it's a joy – on a special day." Her manager, Lisa Cavallaro, RN, and manager of the Birthplace, says "Maria doesn't have to work, yet she still volunteers. She is the hub of our wheel."