I started my first week on my first placement of third year with a feeling of excitement, curiosity and an absolute bag of nerves.
It is never easy starting somewhere new, with fresh faces, names to learn and equipment to understand – it’s all very overwhelming at first.I found all that to be especially true as a stepped onto the neonatal unit.
There are three levels of care in the neonatal unit: special care, high-dependency and intensive care. I spent my first shift in the special care nursery where the healthiest babies are placed, often ready to go home.
”The unit was a buzz of activity”
It was a nice introduction to working with this group of patients, as I spent the day changing nappies, doing nasogastric tube feeds and cooing over my little, sleeping patients.
The second shift was when the pace really picked up though. I was working with my mentor in the intensive care unit (ICU), one-to-one, with a premature baby (as are most of the babies in ICU).
The unit was a buzz of activity, observations to regularly check, monitors beeping all day long and at the centre of it, all these little patients surrounding by numerous wires, drugs and equipment. It was a really exciting moment when I got to watch a delivery and collect a premature baby to bring to the neonatal unit.
I had watched One Born Every Minute before, but of course, nothing is ever quite how it seems on TV. I found it to be a very beautiful experience watching a birth, albeit a messy one too.
Thankfully baby and mother were both doing well and the baby only stayed in ICU for a day before being moved to the high-dependency unit.
As I embarked on my third shift on the unit, I was still on a high from watching a delivery, and starting to enjoy the atmosphere and the staff I was working with. However, that shift was very different to the previous one.
Sadly, there was a baby on the ICU who was dying. It had been a full-term, healthy pregnancy and the family had no hint of what was to come, but complications during labour meant this little life would be lost.
“We go into this profession knowing we will have to deal with death at some point”
The atmosphere on the unit was suddenly very dark. Of course we go into this profession knowing we will have to deal with death at some point, but the tears I saw and heard that mother shed will stay with me forever.
I had never experienced the death of a patient before, let alone the death of a patient who had not even lived. I could not imagine the pain and suffering that the family must have been experiencing, but watching the professionalism and compassion that the staff demonstrated was a comfort.
The experience made me feel proud to be a nurse and when the time comes, I aspire to handle such difficult circumstances with the same ease and empathy.
That first week was a huge learning experience but one that I feel has shaped the remainder of my training and my hopes for my career as a children’s nurse.
Louisa Davies is a final-year MSc child nursing student at Edge Hill University