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 as a paediatric nurse is to make the quality of life for my patients the best that it can be as they journey through their struggles. 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 student thinking of pursuing a career in paediatrics is to give it a go. You won’t know if you are passionate enough for the role until you begin placements.
During university I had placements has three different wards over a 12 month period. I was able to nominate my preferred areas to work in and got two out of my three preferences. Here is some insight into what I liked, disliked and found challenging on my placements.
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.
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.