Childhood memories influence nursing career

May 11, 2023 | by Kate Gawlik, RN

It turns out a childhood memory of being quiet and eating fruit snacks in a hospital, as well as a teenage realization that wearing scrubs for a career while helping people might be awesome, are the basis of a nursing career. For Matt Sanders, RN, a core memory of visiting his twin sisters in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Edward Hospital when he was 8 years old started it all.

Sanders' sisters, Alison and Ashley, made news with their birth because they were among four sets of premature twins born from Dec. 28-Jan. 1, 2000.

“I remember being told to be quiet and that the NICU was an open pod-like unit. My parents would give my brother Timmy and I fruit snacks during our visits. My sisters were around 34 weeks and stayed in the NICU for about 2 weeks. I remember them being in incubators and having feeding tubes in their noses,” Sanders says.

Matt Sandersyoungcrop

Pictured above: Matt Sanders visited his preemie twin sisters when they were in the Edward Hospital NICU when he was 8 years old.

A class at Oswego High School called Medical Topics exposed Sanders to a local NICU to shadow nurses. During this class, Sanders thought, “Wow these people get to save lives and wear these comfortable pajama-like clothes.” That brought Sanders to Aurora University to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. At the time, he worked as a patient care tech (PCT) at Linden Oaks Behavioral Health, his next introduction to Edward Hospital.

After graduating, Sanders sought nursing experience on an adult medical/surgical/tele/oncology floor at a local hospital. Sanders' interest in pediatrics continued to gnaw at him, and he took a position as a pediatric cardiac unit nurse in Cincinnati before transitioning to a Level II NICU nurse.

Sanders stepped into management in Cincinnati, and after he and his wife, Kari, had their first baby, they moved back to Illinois and Sanders accepted a position as the Edward Hospital NICU night clinical leader in August 2022. Sanders leapt at the chance because he says the hospital holds a very special place in his heart from taking care of his sisters, as well as his grandparents, and nurturing the start of his medical career as a PCT.

The NICU interview process involved meeting with Bob Covert, M.D., an independent neonatologist and immediate past medical director of the Edward Hospital NICU. Dr. Covert not only remembered the Sanders twins, he recalls that they were among a group of twins who made New Year’s 2000 very exciting. He even had proof when he found cards and pictures that Sanders' mom Jenny Sanders had sent to the neontologists over the years.

“I used to keep all the pictures and cards from families in boxes until my wife, Mary Roy, M.D., threatened to move me and the boxes to the garage,” Dr. Covert jokes.

“The relationships we create with NICU families are among the greatest thrill of my profession, so I scanned all the notes to easily access them and still live with my wife. Working with Matt brings a great memory from 23 years ago, and he has been a welcomed addition to our NICU team.”

NICU nurses are a separate genre of nurse. They are fiercely passionate about their profession, insanely organized, slightly (ok, very) protective of their tiny patients, and comprehend a specialty that only applies to a small segment of the population. Sanders stands tall as a NICU nurse and as one of two new male nurse hires in a unit that historically has been staffed by women.

“I really could not ask for a better group of professionals around me. I’ve had the privilege of learning and working alongside some of the brightest women in the field. I’m biased, but I think NICU nurses are such a special breed of nurses, and I consider myself so fortunate to be called one,” Sanders says.

Some babies are born needing special care. At Edward-Elmhurst Health, we’re fully equipped to care for newborns who require special attention, such as extremely premature infants, infants on ventilators and newborns with congenital conditions.

Edward Hospital provides a Level III NICU — with the capabilities to treat the sickest and most fragile newborns of all gestational ages, including those with a variety of congenital and surgical conditions. Elmhurst Hospital provides a Level IIe Special Care Nursery with extended capabilities to care for low birth weight and premature infants, as well as infants on ventilators, at 30 or more weeks gestation.

Learn more about the NICU and Special Care Nursery at Edward-Elmhurst Health.


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