One thing I would say, if you’re applying/have a place for children’s nursing, is that you ensure you understand your job does not only involve children. Children are the people you are medically looking after but the parents also need care. The child, whether they have come in for D&V (Diarrhoea and Vomiting), croup, asthma or cancer, have parents that may need help too. They may have been watching their child, like a hawk, for days looking for any sudden deterioration. Imagine how stressful that must be for them, how tired they must be and how bad of a headache they may have.
I am not saying that as children’s nurses we should go and talk to the parent’s every five minutes; but you will get better at reading body language. You will be able to tell when a parent is reaching their limit and needs a break. One patient, a three year old girl with D&V, had a mother who I could tell could not handle the stress any longer. The girl had just been sick for the fourth time that day and they had both been on the ward together for nearly seven hours. The mother looked like she was about to cry, she was huddled over with her head in her hands. I walked over to this upset mother, sat beside her and simply said “you look like this is getting to you a little bit too much, there is a parent’s room down the corridor where you can get a warm drink, I can stay here and look after her if you would like?” She started to cry and said thank you more than once, got up from where she’d been sat all day and went.
There was another time when I was stood with a staff nurse when a mother, from a different ward, walked past us crying into the parent’s room. I followed her and knocked on the door. I said “I’m really sorry to bother you, you can tell me to leave if you would like to be alone. I’ve just seen you upset and thought I would see if you’re ok. I’m not a qualified nurse and not a psychologist, but I am very good at giving hugs”. She started laughing and opened her arms to me. We sat in the parent’s room for ten minutes whilst she told me how horrible her day had been. She left the room laughing and I had made that difference.
As student nurses we’re not expected to solve all the world’s problems, but we should all try and improve people’s days, whether that be our patients or their parents. Remember, if you’re on a long shift where your body is calling for your bed, these parents may not have slept properly for days. Their child being ill doesn’t end at the end of your shift. So as a children’s nurse, don’t forget to care for the people around the child. The more anxious and upset the parent is the more distressed the child is, calming one will calm the other!