St. Luke's NICU celebrates 50 years, two nurses reflect on their experience

Image courtesy of St. Luke's Health System
Posted at 4:17 PM, Oct 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-20 18:45:48-04

BOISE — St. Luke's NICU celebrates fifty years of serving our tiniest Idahoans.

"There's been so much advancement; the field has really been around about as long as St. Luke's NICU has," said Dr. Scott Snyder, St. Luke's neonatology system director.

One big advancement includes medicine for the lungs that helps premature babies breathe air more efficiently.

"Unfortunately if you were a baby that was born in the limits of survival, it was if you were less than two pounds, you only had a 10% chance of survival in the 70s," said Snyder, a former St. Luke's NICU nurse.

"With all the different advancements, now if you're born less than two pounds, you probably have a 90% chance of survival."

Joyce Loveland and Snyder saw the advancements in real-time, from the very start. They began working at St. Luke's NICU the first year it started in 1970.

"Fifty years, it's a big deal, my babies turn 50 this year, my first babies," said Snyder. They have a combined 80 plus years of working at the St. Luke's NICU.

"In the beginning, we always tended to babies, but we didn't have as much knowledge in those days, and so we have the privilege of learning while doing the best with what we knew,"Snyder said.

Loveland and Snyder say it feels like they have a kaleidoscope of memories taking care of thousands of babies.

"There are a lot of memories it's hard to pick out just one, but I think just working with those tiny babies and the relationships we made with those parents," said Loveland.

The NICU has made significant adjustments, but their work is still just as important. At the start of the pandemic, St. Luke's cared for a pregnant woman with a severe COVID-19 case.

"The pregnancy was actually compromising her ability to breathe and making it hard for the ventilator to do its job, so ultimately the decision was she had to deliver, so she delivered a premature infant at 34 weeks gestation," said the director.

After a month in the NICU, the baby and mom reunited.

"It was extremely emotional for everyone involved," said the director.

Loveland and Snyder both say this type of care leads to relationships that extend years into the future.

"I still have contact with some of the families and Christmas cards," said Loveland.

It's a job worth celebrating.

"There are just some babies that made a print on your heart," said Snyder.