What is it like to work in nursing?

Richard Leece is a lecturer in children and young people’s nursing at Robert Gordon University.

I always knew I wanted to work with children and young people. I just seemed to have a natural ability to communicate and empathise with them. Biology has always interested me, therefore when a close family member suggested I consider training to become a children’s nurse it seemed a natural decision.

I loved my training, three years of university and placements across Grampian (including a month in Shetland). Working and learning in a wide variety of clinical settings, meeting people from all over, watching and learning from experts in healthcare was a fantastic experience.

A nursing degree opens so many opportunities for employment; my own career has seen me work in a variety of clinical settings in Aberdeen, Manchester and across Australia. I have practiced as a staff nurse, senior staff nurse, research nurse and a clinical nurse specialist.

Children and young people’s nurses care for children and their families from birth usually until the age of 16 years. They deliver holistic care for children and young people with a range of medical, surgical and mental health conditions. Nursing children and young people is a multi-faceted role; from comforting an upset child, to educating parents on their child’s condition, administering complex drug therapy, to providing health promotion. The role is as rewarding as it is challenging.

Children and young people’s nurses work in a range of areas and specialities. For example in hospitals working in the emergency department, operating theatres, medical ward or outpatient clinics. In the community they work in schools, GP practices and within community children’s nursing teams. There is a big drive to shift the delivery of care from hospitals back into the community and this will be an area of exciting development in the future.

So what does it take to be a children and young people’s nurse?

To begin with nurses must show respect, empathy and sensitivity for patients and their families. The ability to treat all patients and their families as individuals, tailoring their care accordingly is a core principle of children and young people’s nursing. This for me is one of the best parts of the job, meeting and caring for people from all walks of life, religious backgrounds and cultures. Nurses must be able to show empathy to their patients, being able to understand what patients and their families are going through.

It is important to recognise that children are not small versions of adults. They have very specific health needs depending on their age and stage of development. While they can suffer from similar conditions to adults there are many conditions only seen in children and young people.

Communication is a key skill in all fields of nursing; children and young people’s nurses have to be able to use a whole range of communication skills on a daily basis. We have to communicate with babies, toddlers, primary school aged children, adolescents, parents, extended family, doctors, physiotherapists, teachers, social workers, and police. To be honest the list is endless.

Of course nurses don’t work in isolation but work as part of large multi-disciplinary team. Without our colleagues in the other health and social professions we would not be able to deliver high quality nursing care. Therefore good team working skills are essential.

There’s no getting away from the fact that nursing is a very busy and demanding job, both physically and emotionally. Having the skills to organise your workload and manage your time effectively can help when working in busy clinical environments.

Children and young people’s nurses give a lot of themselves both physically and emotionally, but we get so much back in return. The smiles and laughter of the children and young people, the heartfelt thanks from parents after supporting their child through a particularly challenging time, to watching a young person being discharged after having spent months in hospital. It’s these moments that stay with you, it’s these moments that make nursing such a wonderful profession. 

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