Every year, approximately 7,000 babies are born at the Jessop Wing. Thanks to your support, Sheffield Hospitals Charity is able to help make sure that these babies and their families continue to receive the best possible care.

Our annual event, Jessops Superheroes, is running throughout June this year, and it’s your chance to make a real difference to the Jessop Wing by getting involved and fundraising. Just one of the NHS superheroes at the Jessop Wing that you’ll be helping to support is Julie Bathie, who works as a Special Care Co-ordinator at the Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU).

We caught up with Julie to find out what it’s like supporting and caring for babies and families at the Jessop Wing.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

“I am married to Steve and have four grown up children, including identical twins who were born prematurely and were poorly at birth. In my spare time I like to keep fit by walking and I love going on holiday; two of my favourite UK destinations are the Lake District and Cornwall.

“For those that know me well, they know I love Strictly Come Dancing and I’m a big fan of previous celebrities on the show and world champion tango dancers Flavia Cacace and Vincent Simone.”

What is it like working at the Neonatal Unit?

“We refer to ourselves as a family at the Neonatal Unit (NICU) and that extends to the parents and babies we care for. The thought of leaving your sick and/or preterm baby to be cared for by strangers must be petrifying, so it is vital that we build good relationships with families from the very beginning.

We become family and they trust us with the most precious thing in their lives, it is a relationship like no other I have ever experienced in my nursing career. We laugh with them; we cry with them and together we watch their little miracles grow.

“The relationships we build with families mean that they come back to see us time and time again. Families send us photographs of children who were cared for in the NICU, and letters and cards on anniversaries of babies being admitted. We have parents who return every Christmas with a box of chocolates or a cake for the staff. We all know nurses love cake!”

What does a Special Care Co-ordinator do?

“I am the first point of contact for anything and everything at the SCBU. I must be prepared for every eventuality; we have admissions to intensive care which can be unpredictable. I lead the weekly Multi-Disciplinary Ward Round (MDT), where we make specific care plans for babies, discharge plans and safeguarding concerns. I work with a fantastic multi-disciplinary team, including an infant feeding neonatal sister, speech and language and developmental care and psychology.

“I evaluate and oversee babies in the SCBU and report to medical staff any changes in condition and I consult with doctors and the nurses on plan of care, progress and prognosis. I empower parents to become the primary carer of their babies through education and collaborative planning throughout their journey.

“Every single milestone is celebrated; the first cuddle, first milk feed, first time off respiratory support. These moments are massive for the parents and for our NICU family.”

What do you enjoy most about your job?

“My job is different every day, but one of the best aspects for me is supporting parents to gain confidence in caring for their baby to enable a smooth transition to being discharged home. Discharging babies home is a very emotional moment, there are normally tears in everyone’s eyes.

“Being an NICU nurse isn’t just about looking after babies; it’s also about supporting parents. I really enjoy supporting them to provide the care for their new-born baby and assist in providing an environment that encourages their attachment process – particularly when their baby is able to come out of their incubator for skin-to-skin cuddles.

“I also like to think that I improve and enhance family centred and family integrated care so we can foster a culture where family centred care is embedded in everyday practice, so parents and families are at the heart of and fully involved in their baby’s care."

I love my job; it comes with many challenges and many rewarding experiences. The babies teach us so much – their fortitude, their will to keep going; they are proof that on the neonatal unit miracles do happen.

How does fundraising for the Jessop Wing help babies and their families?

“Charitable donations make a massive difference to the experiences of families going through a NICU admission.

“We have seven double en suite bedrooms on the unit for parents to stay if their baby is very sick, for end-of-life privacy, and for parents to stay with their baby prior to discharge.

“We also have four flats so parents can live nearby if they are out of area. Previously, the flats looked bland, clinical and unappealing, but thanks to families who fundraised, these rooms have been transformed into lovely, calm, homely spaces.

“Supporters also helped to fund the vCreate system, which allows us to photograph and video babies and send the links securely to their parents. This supports our “Zero-Separation” initiative and helps to reduce anxiety and build vital bonding relationships between parents and infants who cannot be together. This has been especially helpful during the pandemic with strict guidelines in place about visiting and infection.

“Many parents and families want to give back in some way and they often fundraise for the Jessop Wing once they have been discharged. I get asked what we need on NICU and my response is always, “Think of something that would have made your NICU journey easier because you know that will help another family in your position”.

“I always find time to support events that the charity organises. Alongside the Family Support Sister and our ward clerk Holly, I raise awareness for World Prematurity Day on 17 November. Last year we organised a virtual event and raffle to raise money for the charity with an amazing total of £1538.91.”