Nursing in spotlight after Madison NICU investigation

Posted at 6:04 AM, Mar 28, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-28 10:42:57-04

MILWAUKEE -- The investigation widens into how newborns were harmed in an intensive care unit at Meriter Hospital in Madison. These newborns' injuries ranged from bruising on children's arms to a skull fracture.

Now, patient care is under the microscope -- after a Meriter nurse's license was suspended because of this. TODAY'S TMJ4 took a look at how future nurses learn how to take care of our most vulnerable population here in Milwaukee.

Patient safety is the top practice nursing students learn at Milwaukee Area Technical College to be able to graduate. To be clear, the college has nothing to do with the investigation in Madison.

"If you walk into a neonatal intensive care unit, you will notice that it is very quiet," said Kathy Lieberthal, Clinical Coordinator for MATC Nursing Programs.

Lieberthal teaches future nurses at MATC, preemies can feel your emotion, which could affect their heart rate and breathing patterns, explaining, "If you have any startling motions, the baby is going to startle."

For a two-pound baby, even the slightest touch could affect them.

"Their fingernails are very very thin and they can just rub off," explained Lieberthal.

Showing compassion to a distressed mother can make all the difference. These are "soft skills" Lieberthal says are just as important as the medicine they practice, "They are leaving their most precious baby in the hands of somebody else, and they don't have control over that."

Nursing department chair Denise Owens calls them one of our most vulnerable patient populations.

"A student would not go into a situation without knowing what is right and what is wrong with how you handle an infant," said Owens.

Calling out wrong practices students make from the start makes all the difference in patients lives.

There are about 350 nursing students at MATC. All of their credits can transfer to universities like UW-Milwaukee to get their bachelor's degree.