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Career Story: Pediatric Intensive Care Nurse

Pediatric Intensive Care Nurse

Job Title: Pediatric ICU Nurse

Type of Company: I work for a non-profit children's hospital.

Education: BSN, University of Pennsylvania

Previous Experience: I have worked in the same hospital my entire career. After college I spent two years doing pediatric neurology and neurosurgery, and then i transferred to the multidisciplinary intensive care unit.

Job Tasks: My job has two areas. First and foremost I am a staff nurse. In that role I care for critically ill children. The range of illness is great. Some have had surgery and need to recover for a few days in a place in the hospital where they can be more carefully monitored. Other kids are sick with flu, asthma, etc. Then we also see many who have been in accident: falls, car crashes, overdoses, etc. These children are quite ill and sometimes it can take 2 nurses to provide the care that they need. We are trying to save their lives. Sadly another part of my job is that some patients do die.

I am also a designated charge nurse, which is a leadership position. In this role I do not care for a patient myself, but I am in charge of the whole twenty-nine bed ICU. I coordinate admissions and the transfer of patients to other floors, when their conditions permit. I am also an expert resource for the nurses who are taking care of the patients. I go on rounds with the doctors, seeing every patient and making sure that their nurses know what needs to be done.

I am also the person everyone brings issues to, if something is broken, for example, or we need a piece of equipment, or a family is upset, or there are too many visitors on the floor at once. I try to solve any issues or if I don't know the answer, I figure out where to find it or who to go to. That is a key point in being a nursing leader, since no one knows everything.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of working in the ICU is the reward of seeing a child who is so sick that everyone is convinced they will die come back healthy and visit us! We provide excellent care and we have state-of-the-art technology. Children are sent to us from all over the country and the world to get care or a second opinion. When we can help them it is a great feeling.

Here's an example: a 19 year old man was working on his car and the jack broke and the car fell on his head. He had a severe head injury and it was felt he probably wouldn't live or, if he did, that he would have brain damage. I am proud to say after many touch-and-go weeks he left the ICU, went to rehab briefly and graduated from high school last June as planned. He is blind in one eye and needs some surgery to repair bones in his face, but otherwise he's the same as before. I also love that we work as a team to achieve the best outcomes for patients, not only nurses but doctors, respiratory therapists, nutritionists, physical therapy, social workers etc.

The worst part of the job is that many stories are tragic and sad, and not all the kids survive. The other part is the hours are long (12 hour shifts) and you need to work weekends and holidays, since the hospital never closes.

Job Tips:
1. I believe anyone pursuing a nursing career should be a bedside nurse for at least a while. They are many opportunities (especially for nurses with advanced degrees) but if you've never actually been a nurse, how can you do more advanced positions?

2. Think about what you are getting into. We do twelve hours a day but only work 3-4 days/week. We work weekends and holidays and nights. You do half your time days and half your time nights when you start. You can't always get the vacation you want. They ask you to do overtime if there are sick calls. Consider all this before you sign on.

3. If you are pursuing a nursing career and know what you want to do ... go for it. Many people will say you need to do one year of adult medical surgical nursing before you can work in a specialty like pediatrics. That is not true. New graduate nurses are hired in many specialty roles. Don't be afraid go for what you want.

Additional Thoughts: To be a pediatric nurse you need to be caring and empathetic. We consider caring for the patient to mean caring for the patient and his family, which is very important. Nurses are very skilled and knowledgeable and in teaching hospitals where the doctors are in training, the experienced nurse probably knows more that the newer doctors. We work with the senior physicians to brainstorm and provide the best care to patients. The media tends to not give nursing the credit it deserves.

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