Despite my years of being an HCA, I’ve never been on a general paediatric ward until I started this course. Someday I’ll go into the weird and wonderful experiences I had when I worked in a paediatric hospital, but today I’m gonna talk about my experience in a “normal” children’s ward.
You may think that children’s wards may be less complex as they cover a smaller space of time (0-18 versus adult services which covers 18 to, um, dead), but in case you’ve not noticed, there’s a big difference between a pooping baby and a spotty teen, so it’s actually pretty varied. And if you’re sitting here thinking “WTF, why would anyone think that paediatrics is simple?” congrats on being quicker on the uptake than a lot of trusts who routinely lack stuff (machines, medicine, trained staff) for a lot of paeds departments. But that’s a bugbear for another day.
General wards can be a little crazy. For example, the time I was there coincided with a bronchiolitis outbreak. I had never heard of it until I walked in and was confronted with a snot-nosed 3 month old baby with the tiniest nasal cannula I’d ever seen taped to her face with a teddy bear sticker. Bronchi babies need to be isolated from everyone else so at one point in my 4-week stay, we had a bay full of sneezing babies and adults tiptoeing in and out so that they’d sleep well. Never had breathing difficulties been so adorable.
Speaking of breathing difficulties, a lotta kids have asthma. Normally diagnosed round 5 and up, there’s a considerable amount of kids who show up because their lungs decided to do the thing where they decide that breathing is optional. I was told to admit a little boy who was sitting in our playroom looking a little pale. Mum was sitting next to him, looking tired and worried.
“He had an asthma attack and I don’t think his inhaler is working! He just went very grey and he’s not himself and and and…” Mum was a little teary. Understandable, but it’s good to remember that parents overexaggerate sometimes, so the discerning nurse-in-training should always ask the kid how they are, if possible. I turn to the little man, who was attached to an oxygen cylinder bigger than he was.
“You aite dude?” I asked. He took a deep breath.
“I’M… FINE… REALLY. NO NEED TO… WORRY… MUMMEH…” he wheezed, going sweaty with the effort. I backed away slowly.
“I’ll… just see if a bed’s free. You’re gonna need a bigger inhaler, bro.”
Most kids are so chill about the whole “being in hospital” thing. I’m not sure if it’s to do with ignorance (if you don’t know about complications how are you meant to worry about them?) or if they just wanna get on with life (this whole “emergency operation” thing is interrupting Peppa Pig time), but honestly, most of them take it way better than adults do, especially once they’ve had some painkillers. Parents on the other hand don’t stop worrying until at least 2 weeks post-discharge. We had a mum who was discharged rush back to us in a panic, certain her child was having a series of seizures. We stared at the laughing, smiling toddler.
“Um, she looks ok” my nurse-for-the-day told mum. Mum spluttered.
“NO SHE SERIOUSLY IS SICK!!” She protested. “You’re just not around to see it!”
“Ok why don’t you record her every time you think she’s having one, and show us the video if we miss it?” the nurse responded.
I guess it was the feeling of having some kind of control over her daughter’s illness. Or maybe just taking a few seconds to look at her daughter through her phone made her realise that her child was actually well. Either way, she and her kid were discharged (again) an hour later.
In case it’s not apparent, I enjoyed my placement in a general ward wayyy more than I did in the community. The variety, the stories, the care – it’s definitely more my kind of thing. Mind you, 12hr shifts are a killer compared to 9-5, but I guess if you’re doing something you feel is fulfilling, it’s definitely not so bad. Plus it means I got 3 or 4 days off a week!