Natalie Barton

FON Photos edited x Barton

Natalie Barton

Clinical Nurse III

Intensive Care Nursery Unit 5500

Duke University Hospital



Community Service Award in Memory of Dan S. Blalock Jr.


Natalie is involved in community service here at Duke – and around the world.  A photographer in an earlier career, she is certified with the national Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep program to make keepsake portraits of families with their babies who have passed away, positioning the infants so that they appear to be sleeping.  She has also taught other team members this skill and put together a basket of supplies.  When she finished nursing school in 2019, Natalie spent three months in Haiti and the Philippines assisting midwives with deliveries.  She now works secondary in the Birthing Center, is certified as a Neonatal Resuscitation Program Instructor, and teaches in rural hospitals in developing countries, such as Nigeria.


This nurse is a very active member of our bereavement committee and is often assigned to care for our palliative care patients in the Intensive Care Nursery (ICN).  She is a fantastic advocate for our babies, ensuring that their pain (which is unfortunately not uncommon in the ICN) is not being overlooked.  She is very skilled in the care of these acutely ill babies, while also being a great support to the families.  She is very proactive in memory-building with families, drawing on her incredible artistic skills.  In the care of dying patients, she does everything in her power to ensure that our babies and their families experience a “good death.”


She was one of the first in the U.S. to participate in a study on the lived experience of the father in the ICN.  In 2019, she presented her research at an annual national nursing conference sponsored by the Academy of Neonatal Nursing, and in 2020 her qualitative research was published in the Journal of Neonatal Nursing (link).  The nominee is routinely looking at ways to improve the experience of the families within the neonatal environment and help them cope with such a difficult time in their life.


She is certified photographer with the nonprofit Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, a volunteer program that connects professional photographers with families experiencing stillbirth or the death of a baby in order to create beautiful family portraits.  Even when she has her own full patient assignment, she will make time to take photos for families who are withdrawing care or whose infants have recently passed.  She often comes in early and stays late to take these time-sensitive photos.  She developed related resources for the unit and donated several of her own baby photo accessories to use for bereavement portraits, like specialty blankets, pillows and baskets.  She also created a bereavement photo guide, with techniques and examples, to help other nurses on the unit who are tasked with taking bereavement portraits.


The primary nursing model is used routinely in the ICN, which means that a nurse is assigned to a patient from the time they are born until they leave the hospital.  The nominee had a primary patient who was born at 24 weeks gestation.  It is not uncommon for infants born this prematurely to be discharged from the hospital with a G-tube, home oxygen or home equipment to take care of their complex condition.  The medical team thought a G-tube was an appropriate next step when nipple feeding became a challenge for the patient.  The nominee knew the family members did not want their infant to experience another surgical intervention so, along with the family, she advocated that the patient not receive a G-tube, and a more aggressive parental approach was initiated.  The nominee taught the parents how to perform paced feedings and helped them develop a schedule where most of the feedings would be performed by the family members.  Not only did the infant go home without a G-tube, but the infant also went home earlier than expected based on the consistent parental involvement.


When the nominee finished nursing school, she spent three months living in birthing clinics and hospitals in both Haiti and the Philippines, assisting the midwives in deliveries, as well as providing nursing care in the form of vital signs and newborn care post-delivery.  The nominee also spent time in the OB-GYN clinics where testing was performed and consults regarding prenatal care were provided.  She quickly saw the lack of professional training in neonatal resuscitation during deliveries.  Since this experience, the nominee has been taking coursework to become an international neonatal resuscitation provider instructor.  Working secondary in the birthing center, in addition to her bedside nurse role in her home unit, the nominee is perfecting her skills of caring for infants immediately after birth, as well as building on her knowledge of caring for the sick newborn or neonate.  She will be traveling to Nigeria in the Spring of 2022 as a neonatal resuscitation provider instructor, teaching the school of nursing, medical school and hospital staff ways to effectively resuscitate and manage difficult deliveries, as well as premature deliveries.  She is also the president of a nonprofit that donates medical supplies across the world.


Creating an environment of acceptance, love and gratitude in a patient’s family, the nominee poetically takes one of the most difficult times a parent could ever face and gives them a beautiful memory they can keep for a lifetime through the photographic talent the nominee possesses and shares on her unit.


Friends of Nursing Gala 2021

Friends of Nursing Gala 2021

Friends of Nursing Gala 2021