The moment I realised... I wanted to be a children's nurse
Phoebe Wilson explains the moment she realised her dream to work with children and talks about life as a paediatric nurse
8 min read
8 min read
Working with children in the clinical setting has been an ambition of mine for as long as I can remember. I was even given a toy stethoscope when I left secondary school and told by my head of year to follow my dreams.
I think my ambition to be a children’s nurse grew when I was studying psychology at A level. In psychology you learn about child development and this led me to develop a keen interest in paediatric nursing and to look at the University of Plymouth. The University offers the opportunity to not only study child development at greater depth, but also put this theory into practice and that’s something that I really wanted to do.
Following six months of intense theory, which I absolutely loved, I was excited but anxious about my clinical placement. I’d built up big expectations that I was worried weren’t going to be fulfilled, but I’m so happy to let you all know that my clinical placements and my community placements were absolutely incredible. I was so supported by my mentors and I was given the opportunity to do so much more than could ever have imagined.
I think one of the proudest moment of my course was on a placement and being told by my patients and by my mentor that I’m going to make a good nurse. This makes you believe in what you’re doing and also strive to be the best version of yourself.
I love working with children and I wanted to be a children’s nurse, so being told that you’re going to be good at it is fantastic feedback.
I decided to become a paediatric nurse for many reasons but the fundamentals are: I wanted to help, heal and be part of a team that provided meaningful work that contributed positively to improving children’s outcomes.
The NHS is a huge asset to the country, recognised in recent months more so than ever, but working within that system gives you a sense of pride and achievement that I could not see myself finding anywhere else.
As a nurse your role is diverse, sometimes fast and sometimes slow, but it is always a privilege and I feel very lucky to have this as a career.
I am now half a year into my new role as a newly qualified paediatric nurse at Bristol Royal Hospital for Children. On the day of my interview, 8 months before qualifying, I was asked where in the hospital I would like to work and without hesitation I said “the emergency department”.
Through the variety of placements offered at Plymouth, and my additional working as a healthcare assistant, I found myself in love with the fast pace, rapid decision making and energy that underpinned emergency medicine.
Six months later, I am truly delighted to be a newly qualified nurse in the Children’s Emergency Department at Bristol and feel very lucky to have been given this opportunity.
COVID-19 has changed the face of emergency medicine dramatically, most of which is challenging, but a new opportunity for paediatric nurses to support adult services has arisen which allows us to develop our nursing skills and practice in a safe and controlled environment.
The best part of this new journey has been working within such a supportive team, exploring new situations, developing competencies and continuing to engage in academic work provided by the department.
As a major trauma centre for paediatric patients, Bristol offers the chance to observe, assist and engage with a variety of emergency cases and work within a multidisciplinary team to provide high quality care. With specialist teams working within the hospital, the access to rapid care is phenomenal and as a NQN my experience has been that experts within their field welcome questioning and enthusiasm, to explain what they are doing and why.
My journey to becoming the nurse I hope to be is still in its infancy, but I hope to develop my knowledge and skills within the hospital through secondments and courses.
My aim within the next five years would be to undertake a masters, but I am happy to see what opportunities arise and most importantly, enjoy the journey ahead!
My course at the University was incredible, and I would go back to study at Plymouth in a heartbeat. There were so many good things about the course, from the lecturers who were invested in your success, to the clinical skills lab we were programmed to develop our nursing competencies.
However, a highlight for me was the research module in our third year, providing an opportunity for us to read and write about a topic that fascinated us and critically look at the evidence available. It helped that my dissertation tutor was so supportive, and even though I did this module during the beginning of lockdown, his ongoing encouragement and devotion to the module made it the best one in the whole three years.
The course content was also challenging and engaging, and the lecturers were always able to deliver their material with energy and enthusiasm, you wanted to learn and engage because they were so enthusiastic.
The skills I have gained from the course will last a lifetime. I still remember my first day at University and it’s nostalgic to look back and realise how much I have learnt, and how I never knew the journey could be this amazing.
During the three years, the learning is so well scaffolded that you always know you are gaining, but you never realise how far you have climbed until you look down. I have learnt so much from cannulating, dressing a burn, doing observations, assessing illness and injury, giving medicines to learning about the evidence base that underpins nursing and medical practice, and providing a rationale for all the clinical skills learnt.
It is almost impossible to answer the question of “what did you learn at university” because the answer is “mostly everything”.
My proudest achievement was getting a first class honours degree. It was a classification I really wanted, I worked hard for, and felt amazing to receive. This is the sum of all the amazing teaching, feedback, placements and encouragement I had received along the way and I would not change any aspects of the journey.
The accessibility to the university from on and off campus accommodation is very good. The cost of living is achievable. You get all of the benefits of city life, alongside remote areas such as Dartmoor and beaches only a short journey away and if you love the outdoors you will still feel at home. There are fantastic places within the city to enjoy, restaurants, bars, shopping malls, thrift shops or escape rooms, whatever your thing is you’ll find it in Plymouth.
The course was fantastic because it offered a variety of placements in different settings and the dates for these placements were given well in advance, allowing you to prepare for the months ahead.
As with everyone else in my cohort, I had a general medical ward placement and a community placement in the first year. This exposed us gradually to the diverse role of a nurse and helped us to understand how a hospital/ward setting works in comparison to a community care setting. I then went on to experience a paediatric assessment unit within an emergency department (where I got hooked on ED). In addition to this I experienced, neonatal intensive care, community district nursing care, emergency medicine, theatres and day surgery.
These are all very versatile, very different areas of nursing, but all fall within one system. It is amazing to experience and see how each of them work, and gain an appreciation and understanding of other aspects of nursing you may not have considered but may love. Equally if you do not enjoy a placement for no other reason that it isn’t for you, this is good to know, as it will help you when you apply for jobs in the future.
If you are thinking that nursing maybe is a career for you, speak to one of the administrators or lecturers at the University studying the area of nursing you are interested in. The teams are diverse, with each lecturer from different backgrounds, and they can give you an honest reflection of the job they love. Go to open days, research and think about what interests you, get organised and go for it!
It is cliché but you will not regret the things you do, and for all the graduates out there, sometimes you have to take a leap of faith and believe you can do it because with the amazing lecturers at Plymouth, you will be able to.