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From the NICU to Nursing

January 05, 2020

Jillianne MacDonald will celebrate her 19th birthday in June. She will graduate from Chicopee Comprehensive High School this spring, complete the Baystate/Springfield Educational Partnership (BSEP) program, and will start Certified Nursing Assistant training soon after.

To look at Jillianne, you wouldn’t know the journey she’s had and the struggles she’s overcome, beginning when she arrived much earlier than expected at Baystate Medical Center. Now Jillianne’s goal is to start the next phase of her life where the first part began.

Support from the start

Jillianne spent almost a year in the Davis Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). The youngest of seven siblings, she was frequently visited by family members who wanted to make sure she was OK and get a glimpse of the newest addition.

“The nurses were so incredible and understanding,” said Jillianne’s mom, Jill. “They understood that Jillianne was the heartbeat of our family.”

It wasn’t just family Jillianne was meeting during her first year. In 2001, the first 94.7 WMAS Radiothon for Baystate Children’s Hospital, hosted by Baystate Health Foundation, took place. Jill brought Jillianne down, still connected to oxygen to help her breathe, to share their story.

“I wanted to help put a face to where the money goes,” said Jill. “It makes such a difference when you see and hear how donations have helped.” The trend continued, with Jillianne and Jill visiting for many of the future Radiothons, sharing their story and helping to show donors what a difference they can make.

“If Baystate Health reaches out to us, we’re there, because without the hospital, Jillianne wouldn’t be here,” shared Jill.

To pediatrics and beyond

Almost two decades later, Jillianne is thriving. She’s spent the past four years in the BSEP program, where she’s honed in on her love of nursing and found her passion: pediatrics.

“I want to be a pediatric nurse,” shared Jillianne. “I was born at 25 weeks and I went through a lot of medical experiences, so I kind of know what the kids here are feeling.”

The BSEP program offers a variety of hospital-based learning experiences that provide high school students with opportunities to explore different careers, engage in comprehensive observation experiences and prepare for potential internship or employment opportunities in the medical field.

“My favorite part of the BSEP program was shadowing in all of the different areas of the hospital,” said Jillianne. “I get to wear scrubs and really be a part of the experience.”

Jillianne is part of the experience, from her birth to her current role as a student. Her story helps to propel her toward her passion of becoming a nurse, inspire others, and show that perseverance makes all the difference.

Support care for patients like Jillianne through the 94.7 WMAS Radiothon for Baystate Children's Hospital.