DAISY celebrates NICU nurse



Kendal Williams nurse

Kendal Williams says caring for tiny infants and their families is a privilege.

By Maureen Gilmer, Riley Children’s Health senior writer, mgilmer1@iuhealth.org

Kendal Williams didn’t know why her manager had asked her to come to her office. The young nurse wondered what was up, but the crowd of colleagues in a nearby conference room quickly made it clear that this was a party.

Kendal Williams nurse

Williams, a nurse in the Maternity Tower NICU at Riley Hospital for Children, was surprised last week with a DAISY Award for nursing excellence and compassionate care.

“I didn’t expect this at all,” she said, after receiving the flowers, certificate and healing hands sculpture that came with the recognition. “I’m just extremely grateful that I get to make an impact on people’s lives in the NICU.”

Kelsey Long nominated Williams for the award, struck by the skilled care and compassion the young nurse showed during the several months that Long’s daughter, Rory, was in the NICU this year.

Kendal Williams nurse

“Our daughter was born at 25 weeks’ gestational age and weighed just 2 pounds at birth,” Long wrote in her nomination, which she agreed to share for this story.

“It had been a dramatic series of events for both the baby and myself, and my husband and I were left with our heads spinning – a constant cycle of excitement, fear, confusion, gratefulness and devastation,” she said.

“This was not the story we had envisioned for our family, and we were acutely aware of the potentially heartbreaking ending that could come with a baby born so early.”

Kendal Williams nurse

One thing she and her husband, Cody, agreed on, however, was how grateful they were to be in the care of the Riley team, Long said.

“There wasn’t a single day when we felt like we weren’t receiving the best care possible.”

Williams, who was on the night shift when she helped admit Rory to the NICU in January the night she was born, stood out for the way she made it her mission to take care of her patient and the family, Long said.

“Even though we were rarely able to visit the NICU at night (the couple has two young sons at home), Kendal was always a friendly voice on the other end of the phone when I called before bed to check in. It truly made me rest easier when I knew that Rory was in Kendal’s care for the night.”

Kendal Williams nurse

When she moved to dayshift, the Longs got to meet Williams for the first time.

“The professionalism, knowledge and compassion we felt on those evening calls were even more evident face-to-face.”

Whether it was explaining tests, machines or doctors’ comments, Williams patiently answered all of the couple’s questions, making the experience less intimidating for the preemie’s parents.

She was direct and never sugarcoated her answers, yet still managed to be comforting when delivering news that was difficult to hear, Long said.

Kendal Williams nurse

Williams, a nurse at Riley for 18 months, graduated from IU Kokomo, where she played collegiate volleyball. Outside of the hospital, she enjoys camping and hiking with friends, walking her two dogs and curling up with a good book.

Working in the NICU is a dream job, she said, where she can learn and grow as a nurse while also supporting families in difficult situations.

Kendal Williams nurse

“For parents, the NICU is a really tough place to be,” she said, “so if I can be any kind of support while they’re here, it makes me feel grateful.”

Cody and Kelsey Long are also grateful, now that Rory is home with them and her two big brothers.

“She is doing so well since she has been home. She really is thriving,” Kelsey Long said.

“Without Kendal, I’m not sure where our daughter or our family would be today, but I am confident that we are thriving because we had the privilege of being in her care.”

Nominate a nurse who exemplifies excellent clinical skills and compassionate care here.

Photos submitted and by Mike Dickbernd, IU Health visual journalist, mdickbernd@iuhealth.org