What it's like to attend a NICU Leadership Forum

Collage of photos: NICU managers on stage, NICU leadership at 50's party, NICU Nurse Leaders standing together holding one nurse in their arms, NICU Nursing leaders at QI quality improvement poster presentation from the Synova NICU Leadership Forum in Tucson Arizona March 2023. Below, The text "written by Trish Ringley, RN, BSN, NICU nurse & NICU parent advocate since 1997

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend the NICU Leadership Forum hosted by Synova in Tucson, Arizona. This was my first time attending, and I had such a fantastic time I thought I'd share with you what it was all about!

NICU nurse Trish Ringley RN standing in Synova NICU Leadership Forum Exhibit hall behind a table displaying NICU journals and NICU milestone cards for hospital purchase. Standing in front of banner with the words "better patient experience, better staff communication, better family education, easy on your budget"

I was proud to exhibit as a vendor, showing our journals and milestone cards to NICU leaders from across the country as great ways for hospitals to improve their families’ experience and provide meaningful, effective tools to educate and empower parents. 

Attending the forum was both inspiring and humbling. It was incredible to be in a room filled with so many dedicated individuals, all committed to providing the highest level of care for the tiniest and most vulnerable patients. The conference covered a wide range of topics, from the latest advances in neonatal medicine to the importance of family-centered care. The speakers were passionate and knowledgeable, sharing their expertise and experiences in a way that left everyone feeling energized and motivated. Despite the challenges and complexities of working in the NICU, there was a sense of camaraderie and shared purpose that was truly inspiring. Seeing so many talented leaders come together to advance the field and improve outcomes for NICU patients and their families was a reminder of the incredible impact that we can have when we work together towards a common goal.

I learned so much about the struggles facing NICU leaders these days, and there are many! As a bedside NICU nurse, I have a different set of work struggles, so I really appreciated learning what NICU leaders are enduring. 

These days, post-COVID in particular, managing staffing shortages in the NICU is undoubtedly one of the hardest challenges that leaders face. The demand for skilled nurses, respiratory therapists, and other specialized staff is constant, and finding enough qualified professionals to meet that demand can be a never-ending struggle. It's a delicate balancing act, one that requires constant attention and adjustment. At times, it can feel overwhelming, especially when unexpected absences or emergencies arise. Despite these challenges, NICU leaders remain dedicated to sharing creative solutions to ensure that patients receive the best possible care and staffing needs are met. 

The organizers of the event did a great job keeping it from getting too heavy, balancing the serious with the positives. For example, the lecture on effectively using humor as a leader was fantastic. It's easy to get caught up in the seriousness of the work we do in the NICU, but humor can be a powerful tool in helping us manage stress and build connections with colleagues and patients. It was a reminder that even in the most challenging situations, finding humor and levity can help us maintain perspective and resilience. Thanks Megan for that great talk!

Quality improvement projects (QI projects) are essential in the NICU, and it was fantastic to see different facilities sharing their findings. These projects allow healthcare professionals to identify areas for improvement, develop and implement strategies to address those areas, and measure the impact of those interventions. They're critical to ensuring that NICUs continue to provide the best possible care for their patients. Innovative approaches to care (such as improving sibling visitation policies and implementing “quiet rooms” to allow staff and families a place to decompress) were studied and their results shared with the entire forum. It showed the power of collaboration and the value of learning from others' experiences.

Lastly, the Synova team does know how to have fun, as was evident throughout the week. One highlight was the "Fearless 50's" party mid-way through the event. The costumes were fantastic, with poodle skirts, leather jackets, and slicked-back hair. Everyone got into the spirit of the event, dancing to classic rock and roll tunes and enjoying the company of colleagues and friends. It was a nice change of pace from the serious work of the conference, and a reminder that we're all human, and a little bit of fun can go a long way in boosting morale and building connections. It was great to see leaders from different facilities let their hair down and have a good time, and it was a testament to the strength of the NICU community that we can come together, not just to learn and share knowledge but to celebrate our successes and enjoy each other's company. 

All in all, I highly recommend the event for anyone in NICU leadership, as a way to connect, share ideas, feel encouraged and valued, and have a much-deserved good time.


Photo credit: Synova

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