A neonatal nurse cares for the tiniest patients in their earliest and most vulnerable days. Babies who need neonatal intensive care are born before 32 weeks gestation and can weigh as little as 500 grams — comparable in size to a pomegranate, grapefruit or soda can. Since opening in 1996 – 25 years ago – neonatal nurses at Valley Children’s NICU at Mercy Medical Center in Merced have cared for more than 3,000 babies.
Valley Children’s neonatal nurses Deborah Lingenfelter, Rosalina Mendoza, Cynthia Garcia and Linda Higgins are four of the original nurses that helped open this NICU 25 years ago.
Valley Children’s neonatal nurses, (left to right) Linda Higgins, Rosalina Mendoza, Deborah Lingenfelter and Cynthia Garcia
are four of the original nurses that helped open the NICU in Merced 25 years ago.
“As far back as I can remember, I've always loved babies and wanted to be a nurse. When my youngest daughter, Annie, was born with spina bifida, she was transferred to a NICU,” says Deborah. “I spent two weeks at her bedside watching the nurses in awe of their expertise and compassion. That is when I knew I wanted to be a NICU nurse.”
When the Merced NICU opened, it brought a sense of security to the county. Rosalina was proud to be a part of the growth that brought complex care where it was needed. “What brings me the most joy about my job is knowing that the babies we care for are able to stay in their community, close to home,” says Rosalina. “Before our unit opened, babies who required a higher level of care had to be transferred to Fresno or Madera.”
While many things have changed over 25 years, one thing remains the same: the commitment to provide the best care. Linda explains, “Medical advancements allow us to focus on more than just keeping a baby alive, but also the nourishment and development of a baby.” Cynthia also mentions, “Technology has changed as well, from paper charting to computerized charting. This particular improvement gives us the chance to spend more time at the bedside.”
If birth comes earlier than planned, or if a complex condition requires specialized care, we are grateful to have the unparalleled expertise, compassion and devotion from nurses like Deborah, Rosalina, Cynthia and Linda. What makes Valley Children’s NICU special is the commitment from our staff who care for our patients and their families, and have since the beginning. Each nurse is called to the NICU for different reasons, but they all share the same giving spirit.