Meet Heike Bucken BSN, RNC, CLC, Clinical Coordinator, NICU at SMH

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Heike Bucken came to SMH from Germany 36 years ago, and she’s been here ever since. She started as a bedside nurse, transitioned to charge nurse, and today, serves as Clinical Coordinator for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). “I love every aspect of my job,” she says. “It is just so wonderful to be able to see babies go from that very vulnerable state of being tiny and susceptible to all kinds of problems, to full-term baby size.” 

She and her team in the NICU don’t just take care of babies, they care for families, as well. “I think the most rewarding part is being able to take a family that is probably experiencing the most frightening time in their life, and lead them through that experience,” she says. Heike says she’s had parents who continue to stay in touch 20 years after their newborns came through the SMH NICU. “It makes you realize how impactful our job is.” 

Through Bucken’s many years with SMH, Sarasota Memorial Healthcare Foundation’s support has been a constant. “If we had a need, we turned to the Healthcare Foundation and they would help us,” she says. 

Three recent grants from the Healthcare Foundation totaling more than $400,000 have funded new care beds, an infant simulation mannequin, and IV pumps for the NICU. 

Equipment: State-of-the-Art Carestations  A grant of $253,000 enabled SMH to purchase seven GE Giraffe OmniBed Carestations, which create the optimal environment for the tiniest and most vulnerable patients to grow. 

“The bed has electronic computerized modules that keep the baby warmed to the right temperature,” Bucken says. In the past, nurses would transfer a newborn to a bed in the O.R. and perform resuscitation. Then, they would transfer the baby to a bed scale, and finally to the NICU. From surface to surface to surface, these fragile infants would lose heat very quickly. Today, nurses can perform most functions, including resuscitation and measuring oxygen levels and weight, right in the new carestations, avoiding the need for those transfers. 

With the addition of the seven carestations, nurses no longer have to move babies out of beds to make room for sicker infants. “We’re able to have a bed for every baby,” Bucken says. 

Education: Infant Simulation Mannequin Another $37,219 grant funded the purchase of a CAE Luna infant simulation mannequin. This highly realistic simulator will help train NICU nurses, labor and delivery nurses and other staff, to assess and resuscitate a newborn in crisis. The simulator can, for example, mimic a baby turning blue and a heart rate slowing. Sensors signal when nurses correctly identify and treat the problem. 

“We can simulate what we call high-fidelity situations that don’t happen a lot, but when they do happen, they’re very critical,” says Bucken. “That gives staff members the opportunity to practice their skills, so when it actually happens, they’ll have more confidence in what they’re doing.” 

Technology: New IV Pumps The remaining $110,000 grant funded smart pumps featuring a library to store the precise doses and infusion times, and a scanner to match each baby with the correct medication. The goal is to prevent medication errors. “It’s all designed so that there are no mistakes,” Bucken says. 

Grateful for Support 

These are just the most recent in a series of grants the Healthcare Foundation has provided to the NICU, and Bucken and her staff are grateful. 

“Having gone to conferences in other states, I realize how well-supported we are. And it’s because of the Healthcare Foundation,” she adds. “They provide us with the things we need to do a great job. They are almost like little angels who come down and help us,” she says. 

She says she is thankful for all of the donors who make these grants possible. “It’s not just a one-time thing … it will help many, many babies in the future,” she stresses. “From the bottom of every NICU nurse’s heart, thank you.” 

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