A day in the life of a Brisbane paediatric emergency nurse
4 min read
12 May, 2017
Friday 12 May is International Nurses Day; a day to recognise the superhuman efforts of our nurses who work around the clock to treat and care for the sick.
Rikki, 27, Clinical Practice Facilitator.
If you ask Rikki Hendrickson, Clinical Practice Facilitator at the Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital (LCCH) what a typical day in the life of a paediatric emergency nurse is like and you’ll get one answer – there’s nothing typical about emergency!
As a Clinical Practice Facilitator, Rikki is one of five highly skilled staff who provides frontline support and education to around 160 emergency paediatric nurses.
It’s a completely hands on role that’s done in real time with real patients on the Emergency Department floor.
And when you consider the LCCH is the tertiary paediatric facility for all of Queensland – with gravely ill children often helicoptered in from right around the state – you begin to understand the incredible life and death work that’s carried out by the Lady Cilento’s superhuman team of nurses and doctors.
In an emergency department, everyone has a vital role to play. For example, without our admin officers first squaring away all the necessary paperwork, we can’t carry out any patient treatment or investigations. And in some cases, our social workers are needed to step in before we can administer care,’ Rikki said.
‘We all work as part of an amazing team. If you’re a bit deflated from something you’ve just experienced, there’s always someone there to pick you back up.’
A nurse since 2012, Rikki always knew she wanted to help people and in particular children.
‘I count working with children as one of my life’s privileges,’ she said.
‘Children are so resilient and often tolerate treatments that adults would refuse. They make work fun and enjoyable, even in the most challenging days of their lives.
‘When it comes down to it, I get out of bed each day to make a difference – there’s absolutely nothing more rewarding than the feeling you get from knowing you’ve made a difference in someone’s life.
‘But I also love the fact you’re always learning – no day is ever the same as the last and there are new challenges every day.’
Those new challenges can be exhausting.
‘It’s true we go through a lot on a daily basis – our job is not only mentally demanding, but it can be physically and emotionally taxing too,’ said Rikki.
‘The nature of emergency means we keep a relentless pace during our shifts – walking briskly from one emergency to the next. In fact, it’s not uncommon to clock up 10 kilometres during a shift.
‘Mentally, we need to be sharp, logical and think ahead with everything we do. And being the frontline emergency point of call for sick children means we need to be familiar in all aspects of medicine.
‘So we do a lot of research in our own time. We discuss interesting and rare cases with colleagues and read journal articles to stay up-to-date with evidence-based best practice treatment.
‘And as you’d expect, death and trauma touch us regularly in paediatric emergency nursing. We often see people on the worst day in their life and that’s hands down the biggest heart stopper for us. But we have lots of de-briefing post traumatic events, and access to wonderful counsellors who help us through the hard times. Plus we draw on strength from each other and talk things out together.
‘At the end of the day knowing you’ve done all you could for a patient and a family is a comfort too.’
To help grieving families, one of Rikki’s colleagues established a charity called Precious Wings so that when a child passes away they can help create a memory box for the family to take home and store precious memories created during their time in emergency.
‘It’s a wonderful charity where we’re able to give things like fingerprints, handprints, name bands, hair locks and other keepsakes to families that will help them grieve and heal.’
As you’d expect, nursing is all about building trust with families from the outset – and it’s something our hard-working nurses are experts in, being named Australia’s most trusted profession in 2016 for the 22nd consecutive year.1
‘In emergency, we’re the first point of contact in the hospital and also often the last contact before discharge or admission.’ Rikki said.
‘This means we need to work quickly to establish trust with a family.
‘By gaining families’ trust right from the very beginning, the building blocks are there for a smooth transition through emergency and hopefully recovery. And the trust of the parents is critical – we’re not just caring for the sick child, but we’re providing family-based care to an entire family.
‘When a family has an extremely sick child, Mum and Dad are often extremely stressed, sleep deprived and emotional too, and this has a flow-on effect to the other children in the family.’
When it comes to reward and recognition, Rikki says the most rewarding part of her job is seeing the sick child recover and then escorting that child out of the hospital with a smile on their face.
Even though the emergency department has a high turnaround of patients, you definitely do bond with patients and families so it’s always lovely to be reconnected in some way – either through a thank you letter, return visit or some other contact.
‘We don’t do what we do for the thank you’s, but I get an extra kick out of seeing patients and families come and see us after discharge.
‘I think it takes a certain kind of person to be an emergency paediatric nurse – you need to be quite a passionate, vibrant, happy and caring person.’
And after sitting down with Rikki, we couldn’t agree more.
QSuper is proud to be looking after the retirement savings of more than 104,000 Queensland Health workers right across Queensland.
1 Source: http://www.news.com.au/finance/work/careers/australias-most-and-least-trusted-professions-politicians-are-on-the-rise-but-nurses-still-dominate/news-story/9fe9360588b7efd9be9f8e2344bec346, accessed 28 April 2017.
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