The Footnotes


A year in paediatric nursing

The not so painful appendix (the literary kind) that every nursing student should read before their Post Graduate Program.

As a Western Sydney University graduate I participated in a Graduate placement at Westmead hospital.

Graduate placement is a great way to enter into work as a Registered Nurse once you’ve moved on from being a student. You receive a great deal of support and mentorship form both educators and staff, while learning to be responsible for your own patients.

My Graduate placement has three different wards over 12 months. I was able to nominate my preferred areas to work in and got two out of my three preferences.

My first Graduate placement was in a post natal ward:

From the very beginning I wanted to be a Midwife. Surprisingly, my first placement in the postnatal ward was not exactly what I expected, my early exposure to the realities of post natal depression were emotionally draining and I decided there was too much repetition and not enough excitement, although I did love holding and bathing the newborns.

In hindsight, I was too young to understand the intricacies and importance of the post – natal ward, particularly post natal depression. I also found the number of visitors difficult to deal with at times – I’m sure the new mothers did too!

My second Graduate placement was in the Head, Neck and Plastics ward:

Patients in this ward were having reconstructive surgery, not cosmetic. The majority of patients that we treated had conditions including cranio-facial trauma, burns, cancer and complex wound management.

Trauma and reconstruction surgery can result from many causes, including accidental and self-inflicted incidents. From a man who required significant facial reconstruction from a bullet wound to his face after a failed suicide attempt, to power saw injuries requiring re-implantation of limbs, burns, Head, Neck and Facial cancers; this Surgical ward serves a highly functional treatment, reconstructive purpose and recovery for many patients.

Such conditions can lead to infection and other complications; consequently I learned a great deal about disease and wound management in this role.

My third Graduate placement was in a Paediatric Medical ward.

During my paediatric placement the light bulb went on and I knew that paediatric nursing was for me. I loved it! Early on I learnt the importance of compassion and empathy. When a child is sick, it can be the most desperate time for a parent. I learnt to establish trust between my patients and their families, and the importance of going beyond your clinical duties. Often on night shift, when a child was unattended by a parent and in distress they would sit in a pram at the desk with the staff and be taken from room to room for our rounds, sitting in the doorway whilst we did the obs, so they could see us and not feel too frightened.

My advice about Graduate Program placements:

Make sure you get the most out of each rotation. Like me, you may be surprised at the ones that you like and the ones that maybe are more challenging. It’s not always what you expect.

Graduate placement in the paediatrics ward:

I was fortunate to get a place in the Paediatric ward after my year ended.

On this ward I cared for children and babies with a range of medical issues, including Asthma, severe Eczema, Genetic conditions such as Cystic Fibrosis, newly diagnosed diabetics and meningitis, to name just a few.

Sadly, we also saw children suffering from abuse, something you never get used to. Any anger felt toward the parent must be put aside so a professional approach is maintained.

In one instance there was a diagnosis of Munchausen Syndrome by proxy – a psychiatric condition where the mother was believed to be deliberately harming her baby to fulfil her need to be involved in medical attention.

Dealing with the realities of working as a paediatric nurse can be very confronting; I found it even more so after I had children myself. The team you work with is very important. The support from your colleagues can help you through the tough times, but a supportive family network is also important.

Without hesitation I would tell anyone that I love my job.

As someone with a love for children, I’m very, very passionate about making a difference in their lives. My job is to make their quality of life the best that it can be, as they journey through their struggles; so important and rewarding. Every personality is different. Every patient is different. Yet it is your job to make a difference in each child’s life.

My advice for any nursing student that’s looking at paediatrics as a career path or even that nurse that decided to change their direction in nursing and become a paediatric nurse is to give it a go. Continue to learn. Apply all you have learnt in other rotations and of course, be passionate.


A year in paediatric nursing
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