On July 18, 2017, after years of planning, CHOC Children’s opened an advanced, family-centered 36-bed neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

In the unit, you will find specially designed private rooms, each with a bassinet, a chair that allows the mother to recline while nursing, a sofa that converts into a bed, locked cabinet, television with a DVR for baby education and privacy curtains.

You will also find Jessie T. McCoy, RN, BSN, and her fellow NICU nurses, devoting their skills and their hearts to caring for these premature infants and worried parents. It’s the only place Jessie could ever imagine spending her 12-hour days.

“Originally, I had wanted to be an elementary school teacher because I have always liked working with children,” Jessie says. “But midway through college I visited my aunt in Texas, and spent an entire shift with her at the NICU where she worked. It was at that moment Iknew I was meant to be a NICU nurse.”

After earning her degree and doing various nursing jobs, Jessie received the call she had been waiting for from CHOC—a nursing position in the NICU. She joined the hospital in 2015, and the last two years have been “extraordinary.”

Jessie explains, “I never knew what an impact these babies could have on your life. They are strong, and are fighters, and you never want to give up.”

Since Jessie can request caring for the same baby during each of her three weekly 12-hour shifts, she inevitably becomes close to the infants and their families. “It gives us a chance to really get to know the parents, and to help educate them about how to take care of their babies,” Jessie points out. “We also organize activities such as movie nights for the siblings as well, so they become part of the experience.”

Jessie says what really makes CHOC’s NICU special is how the nursing staff, unit staff and volunteers are like a second family. They are a close-knit group that supports each other and cares for each other day in and day out.

One of Jessie’s most rewarding experiences is watching babies who have been in the NICU finally get to go home. “When I think of the journey these babies take, from being born prematurely to becoming ready for discharge, I realize how fortunate I am to be able to be closely involved in their care. It is truly inspiring to watch a baby born at 25 weeks grow and thrive, and then return a year later with his or her family to say hello,” Jessie says.

“I am blessed to get to live my dream at CHOC Children’s.”