NICU Nurse at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas Blesses Parents, Others With Acts of Kindness
11/18/2011

DALLAS — For Thao Phuong Nguyen, R.N., giving back to her patients, their families and the community honors those who have blessed her with acts of kindness throughout her life.

Thao Phuong Nguyen, R.N., and Texas Health CEO Doug Hawthorne
Thao Phuong Nguyen, R.N., (left) was honored with a "Living the Mission Award" at a recent Town Hall meeting with Texas Health CEO Doug Hawthorne at Texas Health Dallas.
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Nguyen, B.S.N., RNC-NIC, CCRN, is a nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. When she heard that the parents of premature twin boys she was caring for would be celebrating their 10th wedding anniversary while their babies were still in the hospital, she surprised them with dessert while they dined at a local restaurant. The act of thoughtfulness is just one example of the many ways that Nguyen gives back.

“It brought tears to our eyes,” said Stacey Biggers, the twins’ mother. “Jeff and I didn’t have big plans to celebrate the occasion because so much was going on. I couldn’t believe Thao remembered. We were so touched by her act of kindness and her genuineness toward us. She was taking care of our kids — we should be buying her dessert!”

Nguyen, 31, is an only child who never changed a diaper or even babysat before becoming a nurse in the NICU at Texas Health Dallas. Following in her mother’s footsteps, she became a nurse because she wanted to help others.

“Experience in the NICU can be an emotional roller coaster. We often witness babies take two steps forward and three steps back. We advise parents to take it day by day,” said Nguyen, a seven-year veteran nurse. “I wanted to do something nice for them on their special day. I didn’t realize my gesture would create such an impact.”

Nguyen and her parents came to the United States from Vietnam after the Communists took over her homeland. Her parents risked everything, hoping for a better life for their daughter. She was only two years old at the time. “I was too young to remember the hardships but having known my parents’ sacrifices encouraged me to live with purpose,” Nguyen said.

“One of the most rewarding aspects of being a NICU nurse is helping parents bond with their babies,” Nguyen said. “Believing in family centered care, I am there to help them change their infant’s first diaper, give them their first bottle and help them during challenging times.”

She credits her parents and the people she’s met throughout her life as the inspiration that has led her to where she is today. “I am who I am today because of them,” Nguyen said. “Whether they realize it or not, each person has left a crucial imprint.”

“It takes a special kind of nurse to work in the NICU,” said Christine Brooks, M.S., RNC-NIC, NICU nurse manager at Texas Health Dallas. “Thao has the qualities necessary — competence, compassion and communication. She has become an excellent role model herself, with a “pay it forward” mindset. She is an excellent teacher.”

For her work, Nguyen received the hospital’s “Living the Mission Award-Clinical” award, which recognizes an employee in a direct clinical/patient care environment who shows a commitment to patient care, quality and service, inspires co-workers and demonstrates compassion and concern. She has also been a finalist for a Great 100 finalist and students at Naaman Forest High School awarded her “Best Preceptor of the Year,” an honor that recognizes best instructors for their mentoring skills.

An aspiring photographer, Nguyen started Creative Bird Photography, which she credits her friends. “I chose the name because my friends compare me to a bird, saying I have spread my wings to fly,” Nguyen explained. “My focus is using photography to help people.”

In April, Nguyen used her photography skills at the “All Kids Count” summer picnic, an event sponsored by Love For Kids, a non-profit organization that enriches the lives of chronically ill and medically fragile children and their families, including those with disabilities and their siblings, parents, grandparents, and caregivers. Her photos and slideshows are shared with others in the community.

Nguyen sees no borders when it comes to giving back. Her future project includes a mission trip to Haiti where she will care for the children at an orphanage. “All children need love,” Nguyen explained. “I am looking forward to spending time with them and capturing their smiles.”

“She is a remarkable nurse,” said Della Wrightson, M.S.N., RNC-NIC, APRN, clinical nurse specialist for the NICU at Texas Health Dallas. “Not only has she not missed a day of work, she has stepped forward as a leader for her unit to take part in projects that impact the lives of the patients and their families."

In December, Nguyen and other NICU nurses are combining their creativity and advanced nursing skills to help nurture the tiniest patients at Texas Health Dallas. “We will take photos of the infants for parents as keepsake for the holidays,” Nguyen said.

Meanwhile, Nguyen is leading an upcoming community event called Help-Portrait at Presbyterian Village North, a nursing home in Dallas where her mother, Thanh Nguyen, R.N., was first inspired to become a nurse almost 30 years ago.

“I created this event because I wanted people to have an opportunity to give back during the holidays,” Nguyen said. “I am overjoyed by the number of responses from people who want to volunteer.”

The Dec. 10 event will consist of professional photographers who will donate their time and talent to capture multi-generational portraits for patients with Alzheimer’s and their families.

“I want this year to be memorable," Nguyen said. "United with family, we will be there to capture it; making the moment timeless. For some patients, this may be their last holiday."

“Thao inspires everyone around her,” said Cole Edmonson, D.N.P., R.N., FACHE, NEA-BC, chief nursing officer and vice president of patient care services at Texas Health Dallas. “She finds ways to combine art and science together in new and innovative ways that help patients and families heal. We are blessed to have her on our professional nursing staff.”

About Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas
Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas is an 866-bed acute care hospital and recognized clinical program leader, having provided compassionate care to the residents of Dallas and surrounding communities since 1966. U.S. News and World Report has ranked Texas Health Dallas among the nation’s best hospitals in digestive disorders, orthopedics, and neurology and neurosurgery. An affiliate of the faith-based, nonprofit Texas Health Resources system, Texas Health Dallas has approximately 4,000 employees and an active medical staff of more than 1,000 physicians. For more information, call 1-877-THR-WELL, or visit TexasHealth.org/Dallas.