When April Morris, RNC, BSN, began her nursing career 19 years ago, she found her niche and never left it. “I fell in love with neonatal nursing in nursing school, and I still love it,” she explains. She started out as a staff nurse in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Woman’s Hospital in Baton Rouge and eventually advanced to charge nurse, a position she’s held for the past 13 years.
April certainly fits the bill of The Protector, someone who is strong in skills and steadfast in spirit. She is a highly skilled nursing professional who tries to make everyone feel safe in pursuit of outstanding care.
When nominating April, Staci Sullivan, MSN, CNS, PMH-BC, RNC-NIC, VP Infant/Pediatric Services at Woman’s Hospital, described April as a nurse and leader who can manage the most critical patient assignment, mentor the new graduate through the challenges of orientation, support families in crisis, and orchestrate triage—all while never appearing stressed.
“I am probably more nervous inside than I show on the outside,” April acknowledges. “But I know that the staff will come through. I can rely on my coworkers and they can rely on me.”
April makes it her goal to be positive and to help others feel confident when meeting daily challenges. “I’m a very calm person,” she says. “I think that makes people feel more at ease. Honestly, I never realized that I had these qualities until I was nominated. It’s been so empowering.”
A typical day for April means juggling chaos. “The day doesn’t always go as planned,” she says. “It’s unpredictable.” You might think this describes a typical day for every nurse, and it does. But, as April explains, the status of NICU babies can change quickly because they are so small and so critical. They can be fine one minute and in surgery the next. NICU nurses have to be keenly focused minute-to-minute on the babies’ cues.
The Babies of Katrina
One of April’s biggest challenges as a NICU nurse came after Hurricane Katrina. Her hospital accepted babies that were flown in from hospitals in New Orleans. April describes the experience as intense. “There were helicopters and TV cameras everywhere. Babies were arriving day and night,” she says. Often, there were two babies in the same bassinet, some with just an armband and a medical chart placed on top of them.
At one point, the NICU at Woman’s Hospital was caring for 125 babies. They pulled in staff from other areas to help feed them and had to boost nurse staffing from 30 nurses to 50. April’s exceptional ability to remain calm in the midst of this disaster helped to bolster everyone and did not go unnoticed. “We just did what needed to be done,” she says.
To keep her skills sharp and also help improve the quality of care she delivers to her tiny patients, April participates in the Vermont Oxford Network, a nonprofit voluntary collaboration of health care professionals dedicated to improving quality of care to newborns and their families. April is working with a multidisciplinary team to identify and implement better practices aimed at reducing chronic lung disease. She is also a member of the National Association of Neonatal Nurses.
What It Takes to be a Nurse Leader
For April, a nurse leader is someone who demonstrates nursing excellence, who is both a teacher and a role model with the vision and ability to motivate others to provide excellent care. Perhaps not surprisingly, April’s role model is Staci Sullivan, the woman who nominated her for the award. What April admires most about Staci is that her capacity for caring and leadership ability comes so naturally. Although Staci had endured personal tragedy, it only fueled her passion for nursing. She set a powerful example by going on to continue her education and was later promoted to a leadership position.
“Staci is one of our finest nurses,” April says. “She has had a great impact on my nursing career, demonstrating that you can be excellent despite whatever obstacles you may have to overcome. She is my hero.”
Join us over the next few months as we celebrate those nurses who go above and beyond every day to move their organizations forward. Learn more at confidenceconnected.com/mosbysheroes.