Children’s Nursing: My journey so far

Children’s Nursing graduate, Sarah Worthington, is currently working as a staff nurse on the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Manchester Foundation Trust. Two years on since leaving Manchester, Sarah details below how the University equipped her with the skills and knowledge to succeed in children’s nursing and explains more about what her work involves on the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit…

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Since being in high school I’ve always wanted to be someone who was reliable and helps other people. Naturally, this meant that nursing was really appealing and a dream career of mine. I completed the NHS Cadets in college to gain more experience in nursing, which helped me decide Children’s Nursing was what I wanted to do with my career.

I chose The University of Manchester as it was close to home, and had a very good reputation for nursing. The placements give you the opportunity to gain experience of shift patterns and what is expected on different wards from the staff nurses while the academic work provides you with a knowledge base that will help you throughout your career.

The University also provides you with modules that will support you years down the line. For example, completing anatomy and physiology alongside pharmacology has given me a better understanding of human anatomy and how drugs affect the body. From this, I am able to understand greater how the anatomy should be, and therefore have a better understanding of the conditions that some of the babies on the unit have when their anatomy has not come together correctly.

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Straight from university, I started on the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit which is a very specialised unit caring for premature and unwell newborns. During university, I was able to have a placement in this area which prepared me for the fast pace of the unit and allowed me to gain my bearings of the unit quicker than those who hadn’t had a placement there.

On the neonatal unit, our role is not only to care for the babies but also to support their family during what can be a very distressing time. As nurses, we are able to support parents through some of their most upsetting days and some of their best days. We support each parent individually depending on what their needs are. For example, we can further explain what a doctor has said, or we can help them to change their babies for the first time, or even things as simple as assisting them with their first cuddle with their baby.  Each day on the unit is very different from the last, but it is the most rewarding job, especially when parents bring their little ones back to visit.

As with all career’s, there are low days where everything goes wrong but there are also amazing days where you feel like you have really made a difference to a family. A highlight of my career so far is becoming confident in the intensive care rooms and seeing premature babies slowly excel from being only 26 weeks of gestation to their parents bringing them back to the unit and they are happy and healthy. It is just incredible to see how resilient our babies can be, going through so much in such a short time.

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I have recently completed my ‘Emergency and Intensive Care of the Newborn’ training. This is a module at university that equips NICU Nurses with an in-depth knowledge of caring for very unwell baby’s. The module also provides supporting knowledge and skills to care for babies in emergency situations. Completing this course gives nurses the QIS status meaning we are able to independently care for the more complex and unwell baby’s on the unit.

Since gaining more experience on the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit my future ambitions are to eventually become an Advanced Nursing Practitioner, specialising on the Neonatal Unit. This role allows nurses to take charge of the high dependency rooms and nursery rooms. In addition, as an Advanced Neonatal Nursing Practitioner (ANNP) there are prescribing courses available which allows ANNP’s to work alongside the doctors in the intensive care rooms and prescribe the various medication used for the baby’s on the unit.

In terms of advice – I always thought the best advice I was given was don’t give up! Nursing can be a difficult degree for many reasons, not only academically wise but shifts in placements can be emotionally draining. But it is all worth it in the end. When you find a career you love you never work a day!

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When considering places you would like to work, I would say always try and have at least a spoke shift on that ward. Experiencing how a ward runs can really give you a sense as to whether it is somewhere you want to work. And when those first days in the job come, don’t worry! We’ve all been there, you will always be supported to become the best nurse you can be and the University of Manchester will have given you the knowledge you need to continue to build on throughout your career.


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