MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – A typical day for Michele Means, a certified registered nurse, starts at 4:30 a.m. and ends after an eight-hour shift taking treating babies in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at WVU Medicine Children’s.
Means has worked at the hospital for 33 years and said a lot of things have changed in that time for the better.
“I have seen a lot of changes, I’ve seen a lot of babies do better than they used to, so that’s great to see more babies go home than when I first started here,” Means said. “It’s just great to see the changes all the time and seeing what new things we can do to advance babies and get them better quicker so we can get them home sooner.”
That’s really Means whole modus operandi; she cares about her patients and wants to ensure they receive the best care. Sometimes, she said this attitude leads to resistance, and some people thinking she and other NICU nurses are mean, but they’re not.
She is not trying to be mean or a hero, just an advocate for those in her care.
“We have to watch out for the babies because they can’t speak up for themselves. They can’t tell us what’s hurting and what’s wrong,” Means said. “It’s just an honor to be able to represent them and the things that I do in the NICU.”
Advocacy is important, Means said, because it’s the only means of getting the babies home sooner.
It’s this spirit that led her colleagues to nominate her for the nurse of the year at WVU Medicine. And it’s that same spirit that led to her winning the award, which shocked her.
“It’s definitely an honor that I thought I would never have, for sure,” Means said. “I was very surprised, had no idea I had been nominated. I got two weeks’ notice, and last Friday just found out. It’s just a complete honor; I really didn’t think I would — that would ever happen.”
It’s that humility and dedication to her work that makes Means a true healthcare hero. She simply wants what’s best for her patients and loves her work.
“It’s a great department and seeing those babies — we’ve had babies as young as 22, 23 weeks and make it home with their parents and that’s a great thing,” Means said. “And so if they have any kind of conditions we have doctors to take care of them, so it’s a great place to work, it really is. I love my people I work with and just love taking care of the little ones.”