Alisha Steele has spent 20 years as a NICU nurse at Regional One Health, touching the lives of countless Mid-South babies and families.
Alisha can’t imagine working anywhere else, and said she loves caring for her tiny patients.
She encourages the community to support the NICU, noting families experience hardships when they have a baby who must be hospitalized for an extended period of time.
When Alisha Steele was in elementary school, her teacher asked the students to dress up as what they wanted to be when they grew up. The next day, Alisha proudly walked into school wearing a stethoscope and holding a baby doll.
“I didn’t know what the NICU was, but I knew I wanted to be a nurse with babies,” she said. “In high school I was a volunteer in a NICU, and that sealed the deal. I knew that was exactly what I wanted to do.”
She has never looked back.
Right after graduating nursing school in 2002, Alisha started working as a registered nurse at the Regional One Health Sheldon B. Korones Newborn Center neonatal intensive care unit. She celebrated 20 years this summer, and she said watching an infant go from a fragile neonate to a healthy baby ready to go home with their family never ceases to feel special.
“I love caring for my tiny patients, and sharing in their milestones is such a joy,” she said. “Each milestone is a big deal, especially for a premature baby.”
Alisha and her NICU colleagues make a point of celebrating those special moments, like the first time a mom holds her baby or the day a baby comes off oxygen or takes a bottle. They make holidays special, too, marking 100-day birthdays or taking photos on Halloween and Christmas.
Over 20 years, that has led to plenty of patients who hold a special place in Alisha’s heart.
“There are too many to name!” she said. “I can remember one of the tiniest patients I cared for, who was barely 14 ounces at birth. She turned 18 this year. I still keep in touch with several patients’ moms and receive updates. I just received birthday pictures of one of our NICU grads, and a few of the moms have even helped mentor other NICU moms.”
She loves the opportunity to keep up with families after they leave Regional One Health, whether it’s when they return for developmental appointments or when they send photos and updates.
“It is so rewarding to see them thriving, and to know we were able to have a part in getting them there,” she said.
The NICU has played that role in thousands of Mid-South families’ lives for nearly 55 years.
Dr. Sheldon B. Korones left a lucrative private practice to open a NICU in downtown Memphis in 1968, making it one of the first NICUs in the country. His motivation was simple: a belief that every baby deserves the best chance at a healthy life.
Since then, some 50,000 babies have received lifesaving treatment at Regional One Health. With around 1,300 critically ill babies every year coming through their doors, nurses like Alisha work tirelessly to provide exceptional care in challenging situations.
“As one of the Centers of Excellence at Regional One Health and being paired with our high-risk obstetrics program, we have some of the most premature and sickest babies in the Mid-South come through our unit,” she said. “We serve the under-served of our community. We don’t have a new unit. We have lots of needs, from equipment and supplies to more staff. But despite our hardships, we still provide excellent care to our patients and their families.”
Support from the Regional One Health Foundation is essential, with funding going toward new technology, training opportunities for providers, and other essential resources. Alisha noted donations are also important to support families directly.
“Our out-of-town families do not have a place to stay while their critically ill newborn is fighting for their life. While our social workers try to help with small hotel discounts, meal vouchers or coordinating rides – our families are essentially on their own,” she said.
“Our families could be helped the most with housing and transportation. It would be monumental to receive donations that could fund a place for patient families.”
No matter what, Alisha and her colleagues will continue to provide exceptional care for babies as well as compassion and support for their families.
“It’s the only nursing job I’ve ever had, and I can’t imagine doing anything else,” she said. “God has given me the passion and gift to be a nurse, specifically with these patients in the NICU.”
To support health care heroes like Alisha as they care for our tiniest patients, visit the Regional One Health Foundation at regionalonehealthfoundation.org