Lauren Forkel | Clinical Development Specialist, Northside Hospital
For as long as she can remember, Lauren Forkel has loved kids—especially babies. “It’s a phase I never grew out of,” explains the 35-year-old NICU nurse at Northside Hospital, who recently took on a Clinical Development Specialist role. “In kindergarten, I would say I wanted to be a pediatrician until I learned there were whole hospital units just for sick babies.” Lauren graduated in 2012 from Mercer University and has been working at Northside ever since.
Like most people in the medical profession, Lauren’s world was turned on its head in late March when the COVID-19 pandemic gained momentum. “There was a time we had to suspend parent visitation completely to protect the babies and staff,” she says. “It was heartbreaking. Parents couldn’t see their babies for weeks and it really added to the dark cloud the pandemic brought to everyone.”
Unsurprisingly, parents fought hard to see their children, and Lauren, who was going through her own fertility struggles at the time, sympathized with them deeply. “We were going against everything we know is good practice: skin-to-skin contact, breastfeeding, all of it,” she explains. But, much like the little fighters in her care, Lauren and the other nurses kept moving forward. “We were able to find creative ways for parents to see their babies through technology,” she says, citing FaceTime and a few other daycare apps that nurses could update with a baby’s weight, feeding times, medications and more.
“When parent visitation finally returned, I was able to witness parents see their baby for the first time in four weeks, aside from photos we sent through an app. It was the most joyous thing the nurses had experienced in a while. We all felt the love in the room and just sat and soaked it in with them.”
Lauren’s personal Wonder Woman, one of many, she says, is her maternal grandmother, whom she recently lost. “She battled leukemia, lung cancer, breast cancer, significant heart disease, lupus and seizure disorders. She never let these things impede on her love of life and the love for her family. She was feisty and full of life to the very end. She’s taught me what the value of life is and it is a lesson that transcends both my family and my career every day.”
Lauren is expecting her first child in March.