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Children's nursing

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This page introduces child nursing.

What is it?

This branch involves everything from nursing a sick newborn to an adolescent road accident victim. The challenges are very varied, with family care and support a key element.

What does it involve?

Nursing a child is not just a question of caring for a miniature adult. You have to understand how a healthy child develops towards adulthood and know how to minimise the impact of illness or hospital admission on the child. This involves working in partnership with the parents, or whoever looks after the child at home.

Another factor that complicates treatment of the younger child is that of communication. While adults can express what they feel and need or identify the severity and nature of pain a child may not be able to communicate in such detail and the nurse needs to interpret behaviour and reactions intelligently. Children’s nurses need to be able to spot when a child’s health takes a turn for the worse, which can happen rapidly.

Health problems can have an effect on a child’s development and it’s vital to work with the child’s family or carers to ensure that he or she does not suffer additionally due to the stress of being ill or in hospital.

Children’s nursing takes place in hospitals, day care centres, child health clinics and in the child’s home. Like other branches of nursing, care is becoming more community-based.

Children’s nurses will work as part of a team which includes doctors, hospital play staff, radiographers, healthcare assistants, newborn hearing screeners, psychologists and social workers.

What are the special demands?

There are special communications challenges associated with children’s nursing, the most obvious of which is that a small child cannot say what hurts or articulate its fears and needs.

You will need to be very intuitive and immensely reassuring. Non-verbal communication skills, and the ability to play sensitively with a child will be vital. Equally you will have to be confident at handling the distress of parents. It’s likely that you’ll need to teach the child’s parents/carers what may need to be done to carry on with treatment at home – such support is invaluable.

Children’s nursing is tougher and broader than some imagine it to be, but there is no greater satisfaction in nursing than helping a critically ill child.


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