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Mrs. Micah gets to play with babies!

One of the elements in my patchwork full-time job is working part-time as a newborn hearing screener. A good friend recommended me for this job and, through the power of networking and her awesomeness and my ability not to completely suck at interviewing, I got it! I’ll be working 3-5 days a week, mornings, hours depending on how many babies there are.

While I’m still at the old position for the rest of the week, I got to spend this morning shadowing a hearing screener at the hospital. It was completely adorable and completely exhausting.

Most of the time, we have have the pleasure of giving good news. We can tell parents “Congrats, your child’s hearing is perfect.” Then we give them a pamphlet which details the stages they’ll go through.

When a baby doesn’t pass in both ears, then we still have good news. Most of the time this is just caused by “birth debris” in the ear canal. It comes out kind of like wax. We were able to show one mom the “debris” on her son’s ear probe, which I think was reassuring.
We explained that the other side was perfect and that we’d test him again tomorrow when hopefully enough debris will have come out. Even if he’d been discharged, he’d have just needed to come back in 2 weeks for a free follow-up at our audiology clinic. More than 3/4 of babies pass this follow-up.

The well babies only took about an hour. But trying to screen babies in the NICU (and apparently there were more than twice as many as normally needed screening!!) was a lot harder. It’s so loud in there with all the babies and monitors that getting a good response is difficult. Plus one piece of equipment was broken.

So the screener I was shadowing was trying to do the best she could under less-than-ideal circumstances. It took 2.5 hours for the same number of well babies we did in around 1. Apparently NICU always takes longer anyway but not normally this much longer. Couple babies almost passed but not quite. But we’ll retest them on Wednesday unless they go home on Tuesday.

After watching her work the equipment for 3.5 hours, I’ve got a pretty good grasp on how it works. Wednesday, I get to run the computer part and do the charts, but she’ll still be handling the babies. Newborns are so beautiful. They’re so very very new! And seeing them in their mommies’ and daddies’ arms is just….well in the early morning light it’s a wonderful thing. They have so much potential.

And the biggest lesson I learned at work today: Those of us who are prone to bad blood sugar drops must not forget their snacks.

I nearly fainted in the NICU. It was very embarrassing. I sat down, put my head on my lap, and waited until I felt better. I stayed shaky until I got my snack and sandwich after we finished, but I was steady enough on my feet to keep going. Now we plan to pack the snack in the cart. I’ll eat it between well babies and NICU.

That could have been awkward.


dawn November 27, 2007 at 8:37 am

I remember the NICU … it can be a little overwhelming. (My firstborn was in there for 18 days when he was born 6-weeks premature). Your so right … newborns are that fresh-clean-icon of pure potential, wrapped up in that lovely mixture of joy and wonder. (I can’t wait to someday be a grandma … can you tell)?

Mrs. Micah November 27, 2007 at 9:16 am

One thing that surprised me about the NICU was how very very little some of the babies were. I’ve seen pictures, but the littleness makes a bigger impression in person. It’s comforting, too, because I see how little they can be born and still be ok. Makes me less nervous about the future. 🙂

SavingDiva November 27, 2007 at 1:07 pm

Good luck with the new position! I’m sorry to hear about the low blood sugar problem…packing snacks on the cart is a very wise decision!

dawn November 27, 2007 at 1:46 pm

You are so right Mrs. Micah on how little they are when they are in your hands. It’s like holding a tiny little doll. When my oldest was born he weighed in at 3lbs.8oz. At the time Cabbage Patch dolls were all the rage. Their preemie Cabbage Patch doll clothes were still huge on him. But you know what … he quickly gained weight, achieved all the normal milestones; and is happy, intelligent and doing quite well in his young adulthood life. We humans are quite amazing creatures aren’t we … to survive and thrive … when born so small and ill sometimes. It’s very inspiring.
I think you are going to rock out the NICU …

mrsmicah November 27, 2007 at 2:31 pm

So little, Dawn! Aww.

It makes me a bit sad that we’re making them uncomfortable with the ear probe. Some get kind of fussy and I think “Haven’t you been through enough?” But they quiet down if you pat them and I know it’s good for them–either their parents will know they’re fine or they’ll know to get help. 🙂

Carrie November 27, 2007 at 2:53 pm

Such a great job!! I love little babies!!!

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