Night Nurse: Why Children’s Nursing?

“You’re so brave,” a misty-eyed mother said to me, clasping my hands and looking at me with awe. “I could never do what you do.”

Calm down, lady. I’m checking your son’s blood pressure, I’m not riding into battle for Winterfell.

A lot of people ask me “Why would you pick children’s nursing?” The assumption, I suppose, is that children’s nursing involves children at death’s door, thin and waiflike, coughing pathetically as their tiny frame shakes with ague. Parents weeping, holding each other as a stern faced doctor puts a hand on their shoulders, telling them to say their final goodbyes to their little angels.

That is not children’s nursing. That is an episode of Holby City.

Children’s nursing is way happier than that. For one thing children are pretty resilient. Have you ever seen a toddler run headlong into a wall or table, fall down and wait for someone to react before they cry? Yeah, kids are made of rubber. Their chances of getting better and leaving hospital is way better than you’d think.

In fact, the whole “children-are-made-of-glass” thing is a major reason why kids go home more often than not. Parents tend to think their kids are falling apart and there’s something quite heartwarming about them caring about every cough and snotty nose and scraped knee. It’s very rare that a child comes in so neglected that something needs to be done, but what with social workers on speed dial, 9 times out of 10 things are solved with a snap of the fingers.

But what about that 10%? Look, kids are so resilient. They are made of rubber held together with super-glue. Every placement I’ve been on has at least one little miracle doing cartwheels where 5yrs ago their parent(s) were told to start saying goodbye. Just the other day I was with a kid who, after lifting his shirt to reveal the gnarled, puckered skin of his abdominal scars, announced “I’M HUNGRY”, downed a taco the size of his head and ran outside to the jungle gym.

Running. Oh my god the running. That’s another thing about working with kids. Once they figure out the whole mobility thing, there’s two settings: Sleep and Marathon. Nothing exciting is ever to be found by walking. Strolling is a waste of their time. Sitting is a personal offence. If they’re not feeling well, they’ll lie down (begrudgingly), but once they’ve got what they need (usually some paracetamol), they’re off to find something fun to do.

And with kids’ wards/hospices/nurseries/whatever, there’s always something. I’ve seen more videogames in some wards than in CEX. Wiis, xBox ones, PS4s and gaming PCs for the teens, tv screens blaring Peppa Pig and Mr Tumble for the wee ones. Personal DVD players in case a kid wants to watch Frozen 6 times (and they do. Oh how they do). Teddy bears, baby dolls complete with prams, rocking horses, huge dollhouses… and most importantly, WiFi. All us staff need are snazzier costumes and it’d look like Harrods.

And kids are excellent teachers, especially those with long term conditions. They have an honesty that I think we lose as we get older and start to understand what politeness means. “Well obviously this infusion sucks but it’s that or vomming in Math class,” one girl said to me shrugging. They start to understand things at a surprisingly young age, and what they don’t know they’ll ask you, meaning you’ve got to step up your game sometimes… though that doesn’t mean that dumb questions don’t happen too. “WHY DO WE POO?” was yelled at me once courtesy of a 5 year old.

I guess it helps that I’m a big kid too, though. I don’t think I’ve ever had a filter, I’m more than happy to play Uno or Skylanders, and I know the words to most Disney songs. So maybe a big part of why I chose this is because I get along with kids pretty well. Once I sang “Under The Sea” to a little girl so she wouldn’t notice I was taking out her cannula. Her mum had that misty-eyed look. I was just happy for an excuse to sing without judgement.

Do bad things happen? Of course. I’ve been around when a child has crashed, had seizures, and even passed away. But for every bad incident there’s been so many happy faces, laughs, hugs and fart jokes that it’s super rewarding. It’s not all tiny pale faces and sobbing, and it’s worth it even then.

Even if the fart jokes are disgusting sometimes.

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