(NICU = Neonatal ICU)
I can't say this is an easy gig (I don't necessarily think it's for everyone), but I really like it.
I spend most of my time there holding babies. While holding them, if they're awake, I talk to them (which is a sort of irony for me, as I can go whole days without talking). I ask them how their day was, and what they're up to later, and to tell me about all of their adventures since the last time i saw them. I then cover basic geo-political/sociological advents, tell them a little about myself, & let them know what I've been up to, and let them know I'll hold them for as long as they will let me (which I'm pretty sure is overall/generally well-received).
If you want to stay late, it's as easy as "forgetting" to hit the call button at the end of your shift. If you do this, the nurses (who are super busy) will generally forget you're there, so you can get extra time.
The babies are in various states of drug withdrawal (mostly morphine) and experience a fair amount of pain/distress. It is unknown what's in store for them long-term, as far as outcome, nor is there a consistent protocol from state-to-state as to what to do in terms of treatment.
Anyone who has read any books on parenting understands just how much human touch means to infants. Fortunately, the science has caught up with the reality and is currently informing hospital policy:
(Source is below)
It's interesting to watch "adults" discuss the opioid crisis .. there's currently a spectacular failure of both the political as well as the socio-economic systems to address a problem that kills more Americans annually than died in the Vietnam War (in toto).
While we're all discussing the rules of engagement, people are getting hurt. Specifically, at NICSs all over. Not only that, a non-trivial percentage of the parents are not able to take possession of their children (due to violations of the substance abuse abstinence requisites).
Sometimes, I think about the opioid crisis in terms of Finite and Infinite Games. It's a wonderful book (same title) that will [likely] change how you think about any number of mind-bendingly complex topics, by giving you a starting point and a context in which to analyze the forces at play for a given situation.
The gist of the book is that there are two types of games:
In a finite game, the purpose of the game is to bring it to some sort of conclusion, oftentimes declaring a winner and a loser. In an infinite game, the purpose of the game is to perpetuate play; in essence, to ensure that the game never ends.
(Reference to the book is below)
There are a seemingly endless number of geo-political games being played that fit into this context (think: "Israel/Palestine conflict"). The opioid crisis is one of them. The game here is that millions of Americans are addicted to a variant of morphine. The question is, who wants the game to end (and what does that look like in terms of winners and losers), and who is working to perpetuate play?
I believe the infinite game forces are winning .. play isn't coming to a conclusion: it's being perpetuated.
Which brings us to the NICU.
Like I said, society as a whole is still discussing the rules of engagement here. Collectively, we're not really doing very much, in terms of affecting change. The question then becomes: so what to do?
I'm working off of the "butterfly flapping it's wing" theory here, and i'm comfortable hoping that a small change in the initial conditions of these [tiny] systems will cascade to bigger changes later on. It's quite a feeling to provide comfort to a really distressed 2-week old and have them fall asleep on you (and also quite a feeling to fail to provide comfort in this situation due to distress (it's really upsetting)).
The Finite and Infinite Games book is very rad. I'm pretty sure it's a a foundational basis for any conflict that's not "brand new". As it turns out, w/r/t many conflicts, there are as many forces working to keep them going as there are forces trying to stop them (think: "the war on drugs / mass incarceration").