Jennifer McTague is a working nurse at Mercy Hospital Springfield’s neonatal intensive care unit, a full-time student and a mother of three teenage boys. It’s safe to say she has a full plate.
The 15-year Mercy staff member has leadership aspirations, with plans to graduate from Southwest Baptist University next spring with her bachelor’s in nursing.
While McTague once considered herself a “functioning piece of a rather small puzzle,” she now sees the bigger picture and her place in it.
“I am part of a community of health care providers representing Mercy,” she says. “To represent Mercy means to represent excellence, and I believe that Mercy does stand apart from its contemporaries because we hold true to our mission of providing quality care with a compassionate heart.”
A bedside nurse at Mercy’s NICU, McTague understands well the need for compassion.
While she’s largely responsible for managing and monitoring prematurely born infants, as well as those experiencing respiratory issues, McTague spends the majority of her time comforting mothers, fathers and extended family members.
“Admission to the NICU is not a short visit – it often means a stay of weeks or even months,” McTague says. “My purpose is to focus on positivities – which, on any given day, can be that the baby is alive and well at this moment – and to never tread upon a parent’s hope.”
Those efforts may include holding a mother’s hand when she first meets her child and constantly reassuring parents, even if their baby was born as much as 16 weeks early.
“Very simply put, what gets me out of bed in the morning is a fire within, a passionate fire for the babies that I care for,” she says.
That passion is ingrained into McTague.
Her mother was a nurse at Mercy for 36 years, and when McTague was 11, her younger sister Janell was admitted to the NICU.
“Dr. Melinda Slack saved her life and now I have had the honor of working with Dr. Slack,” McTague says of the Mercy medical director of neonatology. “It’s definitely a full-circle moment.”
She has also worked side-by-side with a Mercy pediatrician on research supporting the use of breast milk with newborns.
“This project is meant to conclude that honoring a mother’s desire to exclusively give breast milk to her child is important and that Mercy is making it happen,” she says.
Angela Dye, a 32-year NICU nurse, recalls stories of 1-pound babies too fragile to touch, an 11-pound baby born to a diabetic mother, a child too sick to draw breath on her own and a newborn struggling with opiate withdrawals.
“One thing that each of these babies and families have in common is, when Jennifer McTague is their nurse, each one will be treated with kindness, empathy and tender care,” Dye says. “Jennifer has a gift to help soothe the fears and anxiety of families.”
Dye remembers, when McTague first began working in the NICU, the new registered nurse said she wanted to become exceptional for her patients. During the last five years, Dye says McTague has accomplished that goal.
“She is an advocate for not only the baby but also the family,” Dye says. “And with that, the feelings of helplessness are replaced by calm and peace.”
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